If I Were the US National Jobs Czar for a Week


by Ken Smith


No matter which side of the political fence you’re on, just about everyone agrees that the employment situation in America is lousy. Sure, the millionaires are doing okay, and if you’re poor you’re not going to starve. But if you’re in what used to be called the middle class you’re getting screwed. And if you’re a veteran, forget it – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for vets is 11.7 percent, well above the national average of 9.1 percent. That’s a crummy thank-you for proudly serving your country.

As US National Jobs Czar, I would start day one of my new job with an online national town meeting of the unemployed. Of course all 15-18 million unemployed people couldn’t attend at once, but I am sure that many could and would attend. This town meeting would use GoToMeeting, WebEx, or any one of the other nifty online meeting software solutions that are out there today.

I would use a series of such town meetings to let those who attended know that they mattered to me personally, that I cared for each of them, and that my mission as Jobs Czar was to help each of them find ways to get back to work. I would have meetings like this scheduled three times a week and I would make the recordings of these meetings available for anyone. To pay for them, I would have these meetings sponsored by Fortune 100 companies.

I would instruct my staff to data mine for folks who are natural leaders (especially veterans), and recruit those natural leaders to help organize the unemployed into subsets. I would also use these meetings to solicit ideas from folks of different subsets who just happen to be out of a job.

I would encourage attendees to these meetings to look at online training programs, provided for free by the office of the Jobs Czar in a series of hosted virtual classes, paid for by the budget of the Jobs Czar. We’d teach attendees remotely from home on how to gain a foothold back to employment in some very specific verticals. The courses offered would train in information, sales, and service related fields. Here they are:

  1. Cyber security: This training would require an entrance exam, and would start someone on a path to full-time employment as a “Cyber Security Agent.” I can imagine American-trained cyber sentinels not guarding Fort Knox or the Pentagon, but guarding the infrastructure of our nation including electric power plants, transportation hubs, communications hubs, and other national assets that are vulnerable to attack. These cyber security agents would work from home, and act almost like the Marine Shore Patrol who guard military bases and stop cars at the front gate. At the same time, other cyber agents would be trained on how to walk the virtual perimeter of the client’s network to ensure that nobody is attempting to intrude or disable a national asset.  These trained cyber security agents would be awarded certification as Network Cyber Security Agents, using the largest certifier out there today to test and validate the training. This training would accomplish two things. It would help to strengthen our national infrastructure and it would provide work, real work, and virtual work, in a series of regional online security centers that would help to monitor our national grid, our transportation and communications systems, or any of a host of “tagged” national assets to be protected, for Americans, by Americans.
  2. Sales training: Not everyone can sell. But those who can sell and those who can be taught to sell will always have a market for that skill. If you can sell, you are an asset to any company. While most companies are driven by what they produce, I have seen plenty of good companies fail because nobody could sell what they produced. A good sales person is critical to the long life of a company. I think that teaching those who wish to be taught how to sell, and getting them to sell something online, while not a sexy-sounding position, is one that could get tons of jobs fast. Just like for cyber security agents,  a Sales Agent Training certificate to those who complete an online course would assure any company that the person whom they are hiring to sell their products has completed a vigorous national sales training course.
  3. Technical support: We all have computers or cell phones, and many of us have both. If someone could be taught how to provide technical support, remotely, and if this training assured anyone that the person who is doing the support has a certification from the Help Desk Institute (HDI) as a help desk analyst, that remote help desk agent could either work remotely or go so someone’s home to fix the issues that we all get from time to time with our computers and our phones.
  4. National Veterans Hotline: What if there were one phone number that any United States veteran could call, one toll-free national hotline number, not run by the government, not staffed by doctors or nurses, or social workers, but by other caring Americans? What if anyone who was unemployed could earn something extra just by volunteering for this service, like certificates for dinner for a family night out or movie passes for a family? And what if someone had a purpose to get up each morning, as they knew that they were going to be getting calls from veterans, family members of veterans, and friends of veterans, and the calls ranged from “How do I apply for benefits?” to “Who do I call about getting my son some help for his PTSD?”   What if there were a huge national database of services that each American veteran was entitled to, and what if someone answering the phone had access to that database, and could answer the questions, or virtually raise their hand to get a trained supervisor who could answer the question? What if there were ongoing “phone conference calls” where similar veterans could assemble and allow the magic of “Veteran helping Veteran” to work?   What if we allowed older retired veterans to pass on the knowledge that they had gained.  What if we could harness the horsepower of those looking for work to help with a social problem that is plaguing us right now?  Now, imagine that this was a service offered to those who are unemployed to allow for networking, get the idea?
  5. Electronic Health Record Agent: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is giving incentive payments to eligible professionals, hospitals, and critical access hospitals right now that demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology.

Incentive payments will include:

  • Up to $44,000 for eligible professionals in the Medicare HER Incentive Program
  • Up to $63,750 for eligible professionals in the Medicaid HER Incentive Program
  • A base payment of $2 million for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals, depending on certain factors.

So, since we are moving to an Electronic Medical Records system in this country, why don’t we train the unemployed American Veteran to work from home doing this type of work?

To lay out all of the various trainings and offerings to those who are unemployed will be a multi-posting issue for me. Look for a future posting about this issue where I will lay out how we can retool America and prepare for the next 25 years.

Before you swamp me with emails, I will leave you with why a company would hire one of the graduates of the Jobs Czar’s vetearns training program. What if the government gave each company that hired the unemployed American veteran a $10,000 tax credit in year one, a $7,500 tax credit in year two, a $5,000 tax credit in year three, and in year four another $10,000 tax credit for a total $32,500 in tax credits over a four year period? That would be a powerful incentive for businesses large and small to step up and do the right thing for our unemployed veterans.




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For more than twenty-five years Ken Smith has been a leading advocate for veterans. A combat Vietnam veteran, Ken served during 1971-72 as a paramedic and an infantry squad leader with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. After his discharge, Ken continued his work as a paramedic in New England. On the streets of Boston he encountered growing numbers of homeless Vietnam veterans, and he became determined to both assist them and draw attention to their plight. In 1989, Ken founded the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, located in a former VA hospital at 17 Court Street in downtown Boston. One of the first facilities designed for homeless veterans and now a national model, the shelter has served over 35,000 of America’s veterans who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on the streets. In 1992 Ken was awarded Point of Light #142 by President George H. W. Bush, and later that same year received the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award, considered the “Oscar” for American veterans. As one of America’s foremost veterans service organizations, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Ken was awarded this honor along with Peter Coors, with whom he still maintains a personal friendship. Over the years Ken has appeared on many national media programs including Good Morning America, Prime Time Live, ABC News, CBS News, Larry King Live, CNN, 60 Minutes, and The Geraldo Show. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and numerous international newspapers, magazines, and websites. In 1992, Ken had the distinction of addressing both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as a keynote speaker on the subject of veterans. Ken recently left his last assignment with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, where he was the chief technology architect of the Veteran’s Vocational Technical Institute, Purple Heart Car Donation program, Purple Heart Call Center, Purple Heart Radio, Purple Heart Tech Support, Purple Heart Services, and over thirty new Purple Heart websites. Ken Smith provided the vision and has overseen the implementation of innovative, virtual, work-at-home training programs for veterans with combat disabilities. Ken has designed, upgraded, and supervised the integration and installation of Purple Heart Service Foundations computer and telephony systems, upgrading features from legacy POTS phones to SIP-trunked communications systems including establishing new VPN networks for teams of remote virtual employees. An adventure sports enthusiast, Ken enjoys extreme skiing, competitive sailing, flying, and travel. He has traveled extensively worldwide, delivering his positive message to the veterans of other countries that a paraplegic veteran of the United States suffers the same as a paraplegic veteran of India; that an amputee veteran of Nepal suffers as much as an amputee veteran of France. Ken’s mentor was Harold Russell, the two-time Academy Award winner who starred in the 1946 film Best Years of Our Lives. A World War II veteran, on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Harold lost both of his hands. This ghastly misfortune did not stop him, and he went on to become the chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Disabilities. For over fifty years he served US presidents from Truman to Clinton. Ken was humbled and grateful when Harold agreed to serve as the best man at Ken’s wedding. Ken has been instrumental in the planning stages for the Veterans Workshop, a new nationwide veterans’ advocacy group building a new “Veterans Hotline, and the development of special programs for those who have lost their sight or their hearing, or who have suffered spinal cord injury, as a result of their military experience. The Veterans Workshop provides a forum where new technology and advancements in the fields of prosthetic and orthotic solutions, many designed by Ken, are shared along with virtual training and employment programs. A 1970 graduate of De La Salle Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, for the past twenty-five years Ken has continued his education with extensive college courses in computer technology and related social service fields. He resides in his native state of Rhode Island with his wife and children.