The process of returning home for veterans can be challenging as they decompress, reenter civilian life and start seeking careers in the civilian sector. For some veterans, however, the barriers to achieving this transition can be staggering.
“It’s a big change,” said Chuck Knebl, communications manager with WorkOne of Northern Indiana, covering Kosciusko County. “Some have to have time and develop their skills.”
For some barriers include post-traumatic stress disorder, other disabilities both mental and physical, lack of familiarity with civilian life or civilian work cultures.
“Our people can talk about these hurdles,” Knebl said. “All our WorkOne veteran representatives are veterans themselves.”
As veterans, the veteran employment representatives understand the challenges faced by their clients and speak the lingo, plus help them translate skills they learned in the military into skills desired by civilian employers.
WorkOne’s Veteran Services also offer other resources for vets, including job search assistance, access to IndianaCareerConnect.com job listings before other job seekers, plus help in finding funds for training and development that are available to veterans. Representatives can also counsel veterans on gaining GI Bill benefits.
“Since our representatives are veterans themselves, they can help them replace their DD-214 if it’s lost or stolen,” Knebl said.
Knebl noted Operation: Job Ready Veterans has also been a particularly good program. It is a week long veterans transitional seminar focusing on comprehensive development and empowering veterans. Empowerment is something representatives continue by showing veterans employers do value their skills.
“Some soft skills are in demand,” Knebl said, noting these skills include getting to work on time, using problem solving and listening to instructions. “Technical skills are very good, too.”
Knebl stated the overall goal of representatives is to “build a professional relationship with the veteran and to facilitate their transition to civilian life.”
Additionally, veteran representatives work closely with employers, particularly those who need to hire a certain amount of veterans to meet federal contract requirements.
“Then one of the big things we do is hand-delivered resumes,” Knebl said. “Representatives will walk in to an employers,’ hand-deliver a resume and talk about a veteran they have gotten to know and think would be a good fit. They try and secure an interview. That’s been very helpful.”
Particularly in Kosciusko County, representatives have been building strong connections with the orthopedics industry. They are also working closely with Ivy Tech to fill out its engineering program that will be targeted toward orthopedics industry, too.
The services have, of course, positively impacted the lives of local veterans, including a veteran who was referred to Miller’s Vets where he was able to overcome his troubles with alcohol and now volunteers.
Another success story, Knebl related was a woman who had seen combat in Iraq and suffered from PTSD and depression. She has since gotten a job she loves and is going to college part time.
“It’s kind of an ongoing effort that we have,” Knebl said. “We can see where we’ve had some very nice successes. Though we are very cleared eyed about the challenging transition.
“Our representatives really care about the people they are trying to help,” Knebl said, noting they are all passionate about what they do.
For information, contact WorkOne’s Warsaw, (574) 269-3050, or local veteran employment representative, Ernie Rivas, at (574) 295-0105 or [email protected]