FORT HOOD, Texas - James Rodriguez, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, or VETS, visited here focusing on spending time with Fort Hood spouses and the installation's Career Skills Programs operated through the post's Transition Assistance Program, along with Central Texas Workforce Solutions, Feb. 28 and March 1.
“I was impressed with the scale of Fort Hood, but also the scale of the ‘wrap-around’ services that exist,” Rodriguez said, “with respect to the service members’ ability to find resources that can help them be successful while they’re on active duty, but also the connection to the community. One of the things I really found impressive was the whole community approach to this.”
Fort Hood is one of several military installations that Rodriguez and the DOL’s VETS personnel are visiting to learn about the unique requirements of transitioning service members and their spouses when it comes to obtaining employment.
“We know this is one of the largest installations in the military, where there’s a large amount, on average, of 17,000 service members transitioning out a year,” Rodriguez expressed. “And so, we know that there are unique requirements when we have that many service members transitioning out; not to mention, those unique requirements also carry over to the spouses need in their transition. So, we wanted to come here and speak about the resources that we have at the Department of Labor writ large.”
February 28 was spent with community partners, such as Central Texas College and Workforce Solutions of Central Texas. WFSCT offers workforce solutions to job seekers and employers, which includes job search assistance, career counseling, recruitment and more.
In addition, both days included an opportunity to learn about the TAP CSPs that Fort Hood offers.
These CSPs are opportunities provided to transitioning Soldiers to prepare them for civilian employment through first class apprenticeships, employment skills training and on the job training with industries. Fort Hood offers 18 CSPs at the moment that focus on a wide variety of industries, including the General Motors Army Career Skills program and the Ford Technicians for Tomorrow program.
“Biggest thing it’s life changing,” said Mark Phillips, division chief of Fort Hood’s TAP. “You took care of your country for years, now it’s our opportunity to take care of you. Because we can say what we want to do, but we cannot do these programs without partnership and investment from the civilian sector.”
The General Motors Army Career Skills program is now in its 50th cohort and was one of the very first CSPs on Fort Hood.
The visit by Rodriguez also included a roundtable session with military spouses currently stationed at the Great Place.
“Speaking with the spouses at the roundtable was phenomenal,” Rodriguez expressed. “One of the things I always try to do is listen to the people who are impacted the most by programs or lack thereof. I’ve had roundtables at other military installations, but this is by far the largest one.”
“The roundtable was very impactful because I had gone through a lot of these experiences before I moved to Texas and I was able to get into Triple Impact when I did,” said Shay Thompson, an employee with Triple Impact and a military spouse. “It was actually the first and only job interview I went to upon moving here to Texas. When I live in Georgia, I spent over two years going from job to job, trying to get hired. That’s why I’m very happy to be here.”
Spouses had the opportunity to speak candidly with Rodriguez, DOL personnel, Fort Hood Army Community Services, WFSCT and other partner organizations. Many mentioned their frustrations over having to quit a job every time they had to move and their fears that new employers won’t understand their at-home life. Others also celebrated their successes and shared ideas for Rodriguez to take back to Washington, D.C., and Capitol Hill. The roundtable event also allowed for Fort Hood personnel and partner organizations to share about resources available to them, like displacement funds and access to childcare funding.
“One thing we know right now is that every industry needs people,” Rodriguez said. “The resources that you have here, just within the Fort Hood area, are phenomenal. But we have to make sure everybody understands that those resources exist.”