By: Lucas Lentsch, SDDA Secretary of Agriculture
South Dakota is known for agriculture. It’s a major contributor to the state’s economy thanks to the hard work, dedication, and pride of the people who reside here. It’s those very same attributes that allow many of our men and women to excel in other aspects of life, like service to our country. Since the September 11th attacks in 2001, the South Dakota National Guard alone has deployed more than 7,600 guardsmen and women to fight for and protect their country. These men and women and their families put their lives on hold in support of a greater cause.
Veterans returning from active duty can face many challenges as they step back into civilian life. Finding a job should not be one of them. While we tend to focus on opportunities for youth in agriculture and bringing the next generation home to the farm or ranch, we can also provide great opportunities for returning veterans. Many of the skills soldiers gain through their deployments overseas, as well as regular training and education, translates well to jobs available in our industry.
The South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs facilitates many programs that provide a variety of resources for our nation’s service men and women. Two of these programs that can have a direct tie to agriculture are the “On the Job Training Program” (OJT) and the Apprenticeship Program. Veterans that have full-time jobs and are eligible for GI benefits can take advantage of these programs.
Both the OJT and the Apprenticeship programs provide training while the veteran works in the field of interest. The OJT program can last anywhere from six months to 24 months, depending on the desired career. The Apprenticeship Program can run from 24 to 48 months and may also include supplemental training. Both programs utilize GI Bill funds to help supplement the wage paid to the veteran until the veteran is able to draw the full wage as a trained employee. A veteran is also able to transfer his or her GI Bill benefits to a spouse or dependent to use for either program. For more information, visit the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs website.
As we recognize Veterans Day, I’d ask you to do a few things. First, take the time to say thank you and recognize the sacrifices made by those who have served, or are serving, in the United States military. Secondly, be sure to also thank their families. And lastly, I’d ask you to give some thought as to how your farm, your ranch or even agri-business could be enriched by hiring a veteran. It could be a great benefit to not only your operation, but also to those who have already given so much for this country. Thank you.