Unemployed veterans may soon fill gaps in Mecklenburg County’s code enforcement division, beset with numerous staffing losses over the past year.
As part of a veteran apprenticeship program dubbed “Building With Our Veterans,” the county will recruit and train veterans to bolster code enforcement’s ranks while curbing homelessness among the county’s veteran population, Ebenezer Gujjarlaupudi, the county’s director of land use and environmental services, said during Tuesday’s county commissioners meeting.
Code enforcement is part of land use and environmental services.
The program, a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College, targets veterans with “transferable skills” that include teamwork, safety and attention to detail.
The first class, slated to begin in January, will fill 10 vacant code enforcement positions and pay $15 an hour. Participants commit 999 hours over a year to the apprenticeship, making them temporary county employees ineligible for benefits. They’ll take 335 hours of classroom training, and the county will foot the cost of their $3,000 tuition.
Once they finish the program, some will segue into full-time jobs with the county, with average wages of $36,000 to $48,000.
Gujjarlaupudi last month told commissioners that code enforcement lost 10 inspectors last fiscal year. At the same time, the department issued 94,913 building permits worth more than $6 billion in construction value. Tuesday, Vice Chairman Dumont Clarke noted that the division has an annual attrition rate of eight employees, some of whom leave for higher-paid private sector jobs.
I am totally disappointed with what I see with the veterans I see on the street.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Ella Scarborough
Commissioners praised the program but also grilled directors on how it will work. Commissioner Ella Scarborough said she wants to make sure female veterans aren’t left out of the loop. She also voiced concern over how the county keeps track of its 57,000 veterans.
“I am totally disappointed with what I see with the veterans I see on the street,” she said. “No one is trying to help them.”
Stacy Lowry, head of the county’s community support services, which includes veterans services, said her department and CPCC will use email lists generated through a homeless services network, posters and other means to actively recruit veterans.
Board Chairman Trevor Fuller asked whether the county can ensure that veterans get a guaranteed job once they finish the program. At first, the county planned to only fill positions as they became available. “I wouldn’t want someone to hesitate because they’re unsure whether they’ll actually have a job,” he said.
“If we did need more positions, we could always come to the board and you could create them,” County Manager Dena Diorio said.
This is the county’s second major move to turn Mecklenburg into a “veteran-friendly community.” For the first time this year, Veterans Day, on Nov. 11, will become a county holiday.
Want to apply?
Veterans can apply for the program online at the county jobs listing page here