By Mr. Derek Gean (Leonard Wood)January 12, 2017
Jonathan Quinones never thought he would find himself working in real estate following his military career.
As it turns out, Quinones has a "knack" for real estate, and he might have never known had he not participated in the Career Skills Program.
"Real estate has been a lucrative field so far," said Quinones, who is now working for the St. Robert realtor who facilitated an internship for the Career Skills Program.
The program, which officially started in March 2015, provides Soldiers the opportunity to participate in career internships while finishing up their military careers.
"Unofficially, (the program) started in 2014 at Joint Base Louis-McChord, Washington, and was so successful, it has spread to installations around the country," said Chevina Phillips, Education Services specialist at Truman Education Center.
"Today there are more than 76 programs," Phillips said. "The number of programs will increase because there are many being developed."
Committed to taking care of Soldiers, officials are providing more opportunities for transitioning Soldiers to leave the service career-ready through programs such as this and others fostered by the Soldier For Life -- Transition Assistance Program.
Phillips said Fort Leonard Wood's program began through the SFL-TAP and is now administered through the education center.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for all transitioning service members to participate in," Phillips said. "(It) is very beneficial to the service member not just because of the employment opportunity, but it allows service members to explore career areas they are interested in that they normally wouldn't have access."
David Holbrook, owner of the St. Robert realty company that provided Quinones' internship, said the program has provided him with two "quality" employees.
"I think it's a great program," Holbrook said. "When I retired from the military, it's something that wasn't available for me. It prepares (service members) for life after the military. It's like going back to college while still on active duty. It's worked out great for me (as an employer)."
Internship providers work with the education center to provide interns with a course of study and benchmarks to meet while taking part in the program. Soldiers who do the internships in real estate, and successfully complete the program, leave the Army as licensed real estate agents.
Fort Leonard Wood currently has six approved programs: two real estate programs, programs with the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center, a local investment group and Bunker Labs, Phillips said.
"We are constantly looking for new programs to start and are currently working on four others," she added.
Timothy Willingham retired from the Army as a sergeant first class. He finished out his career as an intern with the United States Geological Survey in Rolla.
"I initially was supposed to do a month in different sections of USGS. It turned out I only ended up working in one section because they needed help -- the elevation unit," Willingham said.
Following his internship, Willingham went to work for USGS doing quality control.
"(The Career Skills Program) is a great benefit, and Soldiers should take advantage if they can," Willingham said.
Quinones said the design of the program helped accelerate the learning curve for becoming a real estate agent.
"(I) had a path of instruction to follow. This program eased my anxiety of not having enough money when I retired from the Army," he said.
Jeffery Isom became the installation administrator for the Career Skills Program in October. Isom, a retired Soldier, said he has a passion for the program and seeing the impact it can have on the lives of transitioning Soldiers -- especially those planning on remaining in Pulaski County.
"I believe this program affords the transitioning service members the opportunity to gain civilian experience that will increase their chances of obtaining suitable employment," Isom said.
In the coming months, he hopes to see the program marketed on a larger scale while partnering with more area organizations to create internships, apprenticeships and job-shadowing opportunities.
"This will benefit both the transitioning service members and their Families and also the remaining active-duty service members who are deserving of the best equipment and training available.
"All transitioning service members are entitled to outstanding transition services," he said.
For more information, contact the Truman Education Center at 573.596.0131, ext. 60172 or SFL-TAP at 573.596.0131, ext. 60175.