By Maria McClureJuly 11, 2019
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - The installation recently opened the Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus to not only prepare transitioning Soldiers for the civilian labor force, but to assist spouses as well.
The agencies housed within Fort Campbell Career Center, 5668 Wickham Ave., include the Career Skills Program, USO Pathfinders and Employment Readiness, as well as a newly formed agency - Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership.
"With all of the partners we have, between all their specialties, we can pretty much take care of all of the needs to prepare an individual for employment," said Duane Soumis, transition services manager, Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program and Fort Campbell Career Center director.
Spouses play a vital role in supporting the Army Family while also enduring frequent moves and extended periods of single-parenthood as their Soldiers train or deploy. And oftentimes when a Soldier transitions, the spouse may be facing yet another move.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates a 16% unemployment rate among military spouses and spouses of recently transitioned veterans across the armed forces.
Although the Career Skills Program was designed with transitioning Soldiers in mind, there is some training within the program available to spouses. The USO Pathfinders can connect spouses and transitioning Soldiers with employment and educational resources, while the Employment Readiness Adviser can provide resources to assist with a career plan, job search and creating a resume.
The Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership was made possible through a $7.7 million federal grant from the Department of Labor that was designed to support the employment readiness of Fort Campbell's military spouses and transitioning Soldiers.
"Fort Campbell, the Northern Middle Tennessee Local Workforce Development Board and the Western Kentucky Workforce Board worked together to get the data necessary to apply for the federal grant," Soumis said. "It is a trade and economic transition grant that is good for two years with the goal to assist 14,000 qualifying spouses and transitioning Soldiers."
Fort Campbell's partnership with Campbell Strong now also makes it possible to assist dislocated spouses, Soumis said. A dislocated spouse is someone who gives up employment to move with his or her Soldier to a new duty station.
"The grant can definitely work directly to assist those spouses in overcoming barriers to employment," he said.
Employment barriers can be anything from the unexpected expense of a license transfer, to needing temporary financial assistance with the cost of child care, gas, clothing or uniforms until the client earns his or her first paycheck, Soumis said.
Through Campbell Strong, the federal grant provides up to $5,000 in employment resource services tailored to the specific needs of each participating spouse and transitioning Soldier. Additionally, the program offers an incentive to employers in the form of work-based training packages that will pay half of the spouse's or transitioning Soldier's salary for the first eight-10 weeks on the job to offset the cost of initial training. This gives employers an incentive to hire military-connected individuals who initially may not have all the skills needed for the job.
"We are hoping that within the first few months these individuals have already proven to be an asset for the company and the employer will want to keep them onboard," Soumis said.
During the initial visit to the Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus an assessment is conducted to determine which agency within the center can provide the best employment resources to the spouse or transitioning Soldier requires.
"If someone does not qualify in one aspect, [he or she] might qualify for a different service that is provided," Soumis said. "There are different avenues of potential assistance that come together here to help prepare them for employment."
For faster service, those interested in employment assistance assessment should schedule an appointment by calling 270-412-1720. Counselors also are available to field questions at the same number. More details about the Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus were discussed during the July 9 Facebook Live town hall and can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/FortCampbell/videos/556235241572668/.