KILLEEN, Texas — Workforce Solutions of Central Texas accepted a $7.8 million check from the Texas Workforce Commission during a ceremony, Jan. 27, at the Workforce Solutions of Central Texas – Killeen office here to help Soldiers separating from the military.
“It’s a two-year grant for $7.8 million for current Soldiers, military spouses, active duty military spouses and recently-separated veterans,” said Susan Kamas, executive director of Workforce Solutions of Central Texas.
The funds will be geared specifically toward transitioning service members and spouses out of military life, utilizing one of Fort Hood’s Career Skills Programs. The funds cover work-related expenses, such as the purchase of clothes for a veteran’s first civilian job, the cost of tools they may need, tuition expenses, exams and licensures, as well as lodging and travel expenses for when the veteran goes out of the region for training.
“It’s exciting,” said Mark Phillips, chief of transition for the Fort Hood Transition Assistance Program, about the funds. “Out of the 65 locations, only Fort Hood is getting the opportunity to use this grant to help our men and women.”
The funds were provided through the Department of Labor’s National Dislocated Worker Grant program. The grant’s intended use is for service members, spouses and veterans in Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, Mills and San Saba counties.
“This creates opportunities for service members and their families as they transition out of the Army,” explained Maj. Gen. Steven Gilland, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commander. “Our Transition Assistance Programs are solely developed to help our Soldiers transition out of the Army and into their next career, which is vitally important so that they have that helping hand. And the people who work in those programs are incredibly helpful.”
Signing the giant check on behalf of the Texas Workforce Commission, Aaron Demerson, who was appointed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as the commissioner representing employers, said he is excited that as men and women transition out of the military, they have opportunities here in the Lone Star State.
“I always say the rubber meets the road at the local level. We’re not able to be successful at the state if we don’t have the volunteers who have taken care of business, and allowed Susan to do what we do on a regular basis,” Demerson added. “We’re uniquely blessed when we have bodies who truly get it, and that’s the secret sauce that we have here in the great state of Texas. I’m excited about this grant, in particular because it’s serving our military men and women.”
Fort Hood has approximately 9,000 Soldiers who transition from the military annually, and Phillips said about 70% of those choose to stay in Texas, which is why the state has a vested interest in taking care of the employment needs of its veteran population.
Two veterans and a spouse spoke about their experience with the Career Skills Programs and how the services of Fort Hood’s Transition Assistance Program helped them. Nina Yaun, a military spouse who was born in Germany, shared how the assistance helped her receive a nursing license. Stan Balcer, a 30-year veteran, received several unique certifications that set him apart, before becoming a real estate marketer. Jonathan Cuff, Ford technician strategy recruiting manager, explained how the Ford Technicians of Tomorrow program is a 16-week career skills program designed to certify and employ service members as they transition out of the military.
Fort Hood currently has 21 different skills programs from which service members can choose.
“These programs allow our teammates to start new careers,” Gilland said. “It’s a career that changes their lives, it changes their family’s lives and has the potential for generational change.”