Hire Heroes. Hire Veterans.
Nov 01, 2017 08:30AM
By Jason Huddle
Hire Heroes. Hire Veterans.
“VETERANS COME FROM A PREVIOUS CULTURE BUILT FOR MISSION ACCOMPLISHMENT IN MIND.”
- RETIRED MARINE SERGEANT JON DAVIS
The NCWorks Career Center – located at 845 Church Street N. – opened in September 2015. It replaced the old Employment Security Commission on Kannapolis Highway (see January 2016 issue).
Operating under the umbrella of the North Carolina Department of Commerce Division of Workforce Solutions – and in partnership with the Centralina Workforce Development Board (WDB) – the Career Center aids job-seeking individuals in finding employment most closely related to their skill set.
NCWorks Career Centers operate solely on grants from the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (VETS). The Jobs for Veterans State Grants (JVSG) program provides federal funding to agencies like NCWorks to pay for qualified staff.
Funding for North Carolina’s agencies is based on a ratio using the number of veterans seeking employment here in comparison to the number of veterans seeking employment in all U.S. states.
A vital segment of job-seekers is made up of our military veterans – vital because they’ve, in many cases, gone directly from high school into the military, dedicated years to protecting our country and often come home with no real direction.
“Our target age is 18 to 24. The Department of Labor has determined they’ve gone straight from high school into the service,” Frankie Morton says. She’s a specialist with the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) for Cabarrus and Stanly County’s NCWorks Career Center.
“From July 2016 (program year start) to June 30, 2017, Cabarrus County’s vet population estimate was 13,288. Some are non-employable vets (retired). That same year, we had seen 313; they received some sort of service here. We referred 79 veterans to jobs. Sixty-six of them got hired.”
A U.S. Army “lifer,” Morton retired from the military in 2005. In the administrative branch of the Army, she was also stationed in Alaska, jumped out of planes and spent her last assignment at the Pentagon. But she wanted to be close to her aging parents and was fortunate to go straight to work for the Department of Commerce.
“I started working for the State while I was on transitionary leave,” she says. “I’m a disabled veteran; my injuries are physical but you can’t see them. I work with vets that have significant barriers. The ones I personally can see are the homeless, disabled, those with a criminal record or no high school diploma or GED.”
Note, Morton says ‘can.’ That’s because Congress passed the Workforce and Innovation Opportunity Act in 2014. What it basically did was re-draw the boundaries of who is considered a veteran with significant barriers, as well as what Morton’s role is.
“Before, the program allowed veterans to have that sit-down chat. Now, only those with barriers can talk to Frankie,” Denise Clawson, Concord’s NCWorks Career Center assistant manager, says.
“Before 2014, any vet that walked through the door, I could see them. Congress has kind of changed the rules,” Morton adds.
Then there are veterans that may need support with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I cannot openly ask them, but if they voluntarily disclose that information, I would find out if they are being treated for PTSD. If not, I would then provide them resources and information on how to apply for help, or get themselves to a local VA or emergency hotline if it’s even more serious,” Morton explains.
With regard to employment, the first step a veteran takes in working with the Career Center is registration into the system. “Our website is centered around NCWorks.gov,” Morton explains. “We have what’s called priority service here. Any veteran that walks into the center receives priority service over non-vets in any federally funded program.”
“When someone walks in, one of the first questions we ask is, ‘Are you a veteran?’ Then we give them a form to fill out – an assessment,” Clawson adds.
While those veterans with significant barriers work directly with Morton, those considered non-barrier are helped by staffers like Clawson and they participate in workshops. “We have two different kinds of vet reps in our agency…local veterans’ employment representatives (LVER) cover employment, outreach, job fairs…they’re advocates of vets. They’re on the road most of the time,” Morton says.
NCWorks Career Center services are no-cost to veterans and include “career assessments; access to training opportunities, job fairs and workshops; job interview preparation; resumé and cover letter assistance; assistance with NCWorks Online; access to computers and free Internet service; and help applying for federal employment and training programs in which veterans receive priority of service,” according to its website.
Morton’s position guiding those with significant barriers targets “help in developing an employability plan and goals; coaching in individual and group settings; and referrals to supportive services, including vocational rehabilitation, transportation, elder care, food and nutrition services, and non-profit organizations that address homelessness,” the website adds.
“Some employers are willing to train, some aren’t,” Morton says. “Most of the vets that are coming out of the service now have mad IT (Internet Technology) skills. There’s also the TAP Program, Dress for Success, they can go to a lot of different workshops, then we can help them prepare resumés.”
TAP – Transition Assistance Program – sees Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Veterans Administration (VA) partnering to provide “career information for active duty service members, National Guard, Reserves and spouses of service members separating or retiring from the military,” benefits.gov says, adding, “TAP employment workshops are conducted for military personnel and their spouses who are within 12 months of separation or within 24 months of retirement. In addition, DoD has authorized attendance for eligible military personnel up to 180 days after discharge, on a space available basis.”
“And a lot of people don’t know that we have an apprenticeship program,” Morton adds.
NCWorks Apprenticeship trains individuals for a career path by offering them classroom instruction
combined with on-the-job training. These are paying positions with wage increases as they move forward in the program.
“Apprentices work as they complete their classes; their work schedule will be determined by their respective employers, ncworks.gov says. “When they graduate, apprentices will receive a Certificate of Completion and will have earned the highly skilled ‘journey worker’ designation. The program can last one to five years, depending on the occupation.
“Employers work with NCWorks Apprenticeship to create a written agreement that specifies the length of a participant’s training, the related technical instruction, an outline of the skills that person will need to learn, and the wages he or she will earn. The N.C. Department of Commerce must approve this agreement before apprentices can start their training.”
There are also area job fairs. “Some race car divisions sponsor career fairs. There’s a big one at the speedway every year for veterans,” Clawson says. “Big 18-wheelers are decorated with all branches of the military and veterans are given preference. They’re let in 30 minutes early.”
In addition, all job openings posted on NCWorks are accessible to veterans only, for 24 hours prior to the general public seeing them. Businesses looking to hire may specifically search for a veteran as well.
Morton understands the key to engagement is awareness. “I just don’t stay in the office,” she says. “I’m a member of VFWs, I ride in parades in uniform, I try to make myself as visible as possible. I do a lot of outreach in the community: Veterans Administration, the Social Security office, homeless shelters, soup kitchens. I work with DSS, one of our partners. Vets like to talk to another vet.”
Article and Photos by: Kim Cassell