By Tech Sgt. Brandy Fowler, New York Air National GuardMarch 12, 2013
BUFFALO, N.Y. (March 12, 2013) -- Forty-nine New York National Guard citizen Soldiers got a leg up on the skills it takes to get a job at a three-day training workshop hosted here by the New York National Guard.
The Soldiers, who just returned from deployment to Afghanistan and Kuwait, learned how to write a resume, interview for a job and translate their military skills into something that makes sense for a civilian employer during the three days of training at the Adams Mark Hotel.
The Transition Assistance Program is mandatory for Soldiers leaving active duty who are unemployed, said Andrew Depalo, the director of Family Programs for the New York National Guard. Service members leaving active duty as well as Guard and Reserve members who do not have jobs now have to go through it.
The Veterans Opportunity to Work Act, or VOW Act, of 2011 established the program and allocated the funding, he said. It's the first time the New York National Guard has offered the program.
"The program provides service members with employment opportunities and gives them the tools and resources to become successful in the community" DePalo explained. "The training focuses on transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce. It's about getting these service members actively engaged back into the community."
For Spc. Jon-Christopher Dixon, from Central Square, N.Y. the class offered a chance to move closer to his goal of taking his skills as a Military Police Soldier and turning them into a job as a United States Marshall.
"My resume is mediocre and this training will help strengthen it. It's also helping me with the federal hiring process," said Dixon, a member of the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
"This course is a great bunch of tools for our toolbox, " said Spc. Andrew Waite, who is also a member of the 27th BSTB.
"I have been looking for a job ever since I returned from a deployment three months ago," the Lowville, N.Y. Soldier said. I need help with my interviewing skills and need to learn how to write a cover letter and resume in order to market myself to prospective employers. This course is going to help me be better organized in job seeking and this class can only help me improve myself."
The instruction highlights websites that returning veterans can use as a resources for job hunting.
One of these is the New York National Guard's "Job Zone" at http://dmna.ny.gov/jobs/.
Maintained by retired Command Sergeants Major John Willsey and Robert Van Pelt, the website allows Soldiers to find jobs being offered by businesses that want to hire veterans and Guard Soldiers and Airmen.
Other websites help translate military skills into their civilian equivalents like the Military Occupational Specialty Translator maintained by the Veterans Administration at https://mst.vaforvets.va.gov/mst/va/mos-translator. The site allows service members to pick their service and military skill and see what civilian jobs their rank and experience translates into.
"I would have never known about these beneficial websites if it wasn't for this course," Dixon said.
"I'm not required to be here but I am glad to be here because I am learning a lot of things I didn't know before," said Air National Guard Sgt. Michael Jenkins, a Scotia resident assigned to Hancock Field Air National Guard Base.
The students are learning these skills from people who care and have seen the benefits of the program first hand, said instructor Michele Lewis.
"I am a firm believer in this program. My father was a veteran and I watched as he came back from a deployment. It was hard for him to find a job. He didn't have the program to help him out and it took him about a year to get back on his feet," she said.
"We have a lot of veterans coming home and with all the problems that veterans are returning with, employment shouldn't have to be another one they have to deal with," said Sgt. 1st Class Byron Barnes, a member of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion from Rochester, N.Y.
"I'm getting some pretty good pointers and am excited to see where this is going to go. I think this is a good program and the instructors are passionate about the knowledge they are offering us," he added.
The course has many advantages, DePalo said.
Not only are the Soldiers receiving valuable training and getting expert advice, the State of New York is also saving money because of it, he added.
"When these Soldiers go back into the community to work, it cuts back on the cost of unemployment insurance for the state," Depalo said. "The state unemployment rate has decreased due to the VOW Act."
"The Soldiers leave here more educated about job hunting and when they finally get back to work, it's a boost to their confidence and in turn, a boost to their mental health. Unemployment is hard on everyone involved in the member's life. This is a tool to help eliminate negative stigma associated with unemployment," Depalo said.