By Ed Brock
A year and a half ago Army veteran Niles Baker wanted to do something to improve his professional life.
"I had the GI Bill benefits and I knew I wasn't going to go back to school," said 58-year-old Baker of Jonesboro.
According to the Georgia Department of Veterans Services, most veterans know they can use their benefits to pay for a college education. What many of them don't know is that the benefits can be used to pay for on-the-job training, too.
"It's not publicized very well," said James Jackson director of the Georgia State Approving Agency.
Baker, a Vietnam veteran who retired from the Army after 24 years of service, heard about the job from a man he previously worked with who was a coordinator for the On-the-Job Training program.
"He said if I ever got another job I could use what was left of my GI Bill," Baker said.
So with the program's help, Baker set up a schedule with his current employer, Acme Pawn Shop on Ga. Highway 85, for management training. During the two year program recipients receive up to $12,988 as a tax-free income supplement.
"Employers can also benefit from this," said Georgia Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Pete Wheeler. "The monetary benefits a veteran receives should motivate that individual to perform at a higher level and, in turn, enhance business operations."
The benefit payments are gradually reduced every six months of the program, Jackson said.
National Guard and Reserve members may also qualify for the benefits. To qualify for the OJT or apprenticeship programs the veteran must work 30 hours or more on a full-time job during the work week and the employer must agree to the program.
"We work out a training schedule that suits the employee," Jackson said.
The training programs also must meet federal regulations.
Agencies and companies participating in the program in Clayton County include the county police and fire departments, the police departments of Riverdale, Morrow, and Jonesboro, Georgia Power Company, Mortuary Billing & Collection Service, Old Dominion Freight Lines, Operating Engineers JAC Local 9, A-1 Heating & Cooling, AI/USF Dugan-Atlanta, Asbestos Worker Local 48 JATP, the Clayton County Water Authority, Georgia State Patrol and the Regional Youth Detention Center.
In Henry County program participants are Atlas Roofing Corporation, the McDonough Police Department, Henry County police and fire departments and tax offices, Cut Rite Corporation, Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, Georgia National Golf Club and GENCO Distribution Center.
For more information on the program call Jackson at (404) 656-2306 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org .