HEIDELBERG, Germany -- The Army Community Service's Employment Readiness Program offers job seekers information and referral services when it comes to employment, training, transitions and volunteer opportunities in the local area.

The idea, according to Michiel DeVito, Heidelberg's employment readiness manager, is to give customers the skills needed to get a job as quick as possible.

The program's focus is on military spouses who often leave their job behind during a permanent change of station. DeVito said the program helps customers "transition to a new community."

The program routinely offers classes in computer literacy, resume writing - both federal and private industry - interview skills and job fair readiness.
DeVito said most of the classes are full, so anyone interested should sign up early, so she can accommodate the size of the class.

Two upcoming classes, Resume Writing and 1-2-3 Job Fair Ready, are being offered over the next two weeks in preparation for the Heidelberg and Mannheim Career Fair scheduled for Jan. 31, at the Mannheim Sports Arena on Benjamin Franklin Village.
ACS also offers a computer lab and a resource library available for job seekers. Some funding for the lab, as well as funding for an additional employee came from Army Family Covenant funds, DeVito said.

The staff, along with some volunteers, keep local job postings up to date in the lab. "Even if there are no job opportunities," DeVito said, the customers can still improve their job seeking skills.

"We help customers become independent and to take the (job hunting) skills with them," she said.

One way DeVito said people can boost their employment credentials is to volunteer. She said many people fall into the trap of needing experience to get a job, but can't get the experience without a job.

Many employers now look favorably at unpaid experience such as volunteer work, she said. Some federal job announcements now mention unpaid experience as acceptable forms of experience.

One thing that DeVito warns customers about is online job scams. A customer of DeVito's was scammed out of $200 from two different companies. The customer was able to recoup the money, but only after several threatening e-mails.

Community members who suspect they have been scammed should visit their local legal assistance office.

"Prevention is the key," said Capt. Alison Pliske, chief of client services, Patton Law Center in Heidelberg.

"If someone thinks something looks fishy, they can always come to us," she said. If it's too late and they've already sent money, the law center staff will try to get the money back through Better Business Bureau or the police if laws have been broken.

"There are legitimate online jobs," DeVito said. She hopes to be able to offer classes on the topic in the near future, but her office is still working out some conflicts when it comes to host nation laws.

"Spouses and mothers want to work from home," she said.

She encourages anyone with the desire to work, to come to ACS for information.
"Remember you can enhance today and advance tomorrow," DeVito said.

(Editor's Note: Jason Austin writes for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)