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History
Minnesota National Guard
Coming Home: Creating Success for our Veterans

Minnesota's National Guard returns

BY: 2ND LT MELANIE NELSON, MINNESOTA NATIONAL GUARD | JULY 2012

Soldier
PHOTO CREDIT: STAFF SGT DAJON N FERRELL, MINNESOTA NATIONAL GUARD PUBLIC AFFAIRS


Now that they’re home, the soldiers and their families are defining a new “normal” after deployment Some focus on reconnecting with their spouses and children, while others take a little time to unwind before getting back into the swing of things at work or college Nineteen percent of this brigade has a huge challenge in front of them—unemployment But many are keeping their attitude positive, as they are armed for the fight

Late last spring, soldiers were asked about their plans for after deployment Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) liaison Jim Mitchell of Montevideo, Minn, started noticing a high trend of soldiers from every corner of the state answering that they would likely come home unemployed

“The informational interview ESGR conducted with the soldiers is part of the Solider Readiness Processing that each activated soldier goes through before they deploy,” said Mitchell “This one taught us a lot” Mitchell’s concern about statewide post-deployment unemployment spurred Minnesota National Guard leadership into action

As the soldiers departed in May and June 2011, the Interagency Employment Work Group (IEWG) was established to create successful paths for veterans to find employment They planned to use the 1st Brigade Combat Team as a test group for the new process Facilitated by the Minnesota National Guard’s Deployment Cycle Support Team, the IEWG quickly gained partners from more than 20 state, federal and local entities including: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), Minnesota Department of Revenue, Department of Defense Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, County Veteran Service Advisors, Yellow Ribbon Networks, and all branches of service and ESGR One of the team’s first priorities was to find clear paths to employment for veterans With multiple federal, state and private employment search tools, websites and campaigns for employment, simply getting started was a daunting task for any recently returned, unemployed soldier to face alone What they needed most was an ally “The Minnesota WorkForce Center is the state’s primary agency for workforce and economic development which brings job seekers and employers together,” said Jim Finley, director of The Veterans Employment Service for DEED’s Minnesota WorkForce Centers

Not only did this existing state program have a veteran preference policy and nearly 50 offices established throughout the state, many of the Minnesota WorkForce Centers also had a veteran employment representative on staff “Veteran employment representatives are veterans themselves who have gone through their own transition from military to civilian [life] and are directly connected to the resources in the workforce centers,” said Finley These veteran employment representatives provide one-on-one skill assessment, administer career guidance, coordinate resume-writing assistance, translate military skills to civilian skills, refer job-seekers to veteran-friendly employers and host monthly follow-up and networking groups Most importantly, they serve as the professional ally that soldiers need to navigate the employment process The IEWG identified another great barrier veterans encounter when seeking employment— defining a career plan they want to pursue MnSCU brought the IEWG up to speed through the MyMilitary GPS LifePlan “Goals + Plans equals Success is an online tool to help individuals identify career and personal goals,” said Gina Sobania, the military education director for MnSCU “Minnesota State Colleges and Universities has modified this tool and created ‘MyMilitary GPS LifePlan’ specifically to help veterans and service members address this issue” Perfect

Step One: Visit a WorkForce Center

Step Two: Develop a plan

This leads to the final step: Post your resume online and start networking


DEED had the right job bank Forty percent of employers who have posted a job opening on wwwMinnesotaWorksnet have found hires through it Additionally, DEED activated a new button to allow companies to list open positions as “veteran friendly” While the IEWG finalized a three-step employment assistance process they could adopt and promote, another movement was underway DEED and the Minnesota National Guard conducted an official unemployment survey of the 1BCT while they were stationed in Kuwait As of January 2012, survey results confirmed that nearly 19 percent of these soldiers would be coming home to unemployment

Under the direction of Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, the IEWG planned to kick-off their three-step process before the soldiers returned home by sending an Employment Resource Team to Kuwait to prepare the troops for employment In March 2012, the Employment Resource Team, consisting of the following eleven individuals, traveled to Kuwait:
» "¨Jim Finley, director of Veterans Employment Service for DEED’s Minnesota WorkForce Centers
» "¨Ron Kellen, senior veteran employment representative for veterans employment programs for DEED’s Minnesota WorkForce Centers
» "¨Grant Heino, senior veteran employment representative for veterans employment programs for DEED’s Minnesota WorkForce Centers
» "¨Gina Sobania, military education director for MnSCU
» "¨Tony Tengwall, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs - Higher Education Veterans Program
» "¨Bruce Keifner, Best Buy Corporate human resource manager
» "¨Christopher Hill, US Bank Corporate human resource manager
» "¨Marvin Hamilton, group director of distribution for Target
» "¨Dick Daniels, St Paul Chamber of Commerce
» "¨Chaplain (Colonel) John Morris, Minnesota National Guard
» "¨Major Aaron Krenz, chief of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, Deployment Cycle Support Team, Minnesota National Guard

While in Kuwait, the Employment Resource Team saw 1,080 Minnesota National Guard soldiers from Minn, Wisc, Okla, Mo and Tenn over the course of five, 14-hour days They also worked with 12 Army Reserve soldiers

The soldiers had done their homework They started the three-step process before the Employment Resource Team arrived, allowing everyone to get the most out of their time “They need to work on their resumes, interview skills and selling themselves,” said Maj Aaron Krenz, chief of Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, Deployment Cycle Support Team Krenz directed his operations team to adjust training to the 1BCT’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration training in order to meet these needs The soldiers, in turn, appreciated the civilian business leaders who provided presentations on how to market oneself to employers, as well as one-on-one resume refinement and interview practice

The Commanders in Kuwait used the feedback from the Employment Resource Team to focus on areas to improve upon and used their citizen-soldier skills to develop a training plan to practicing interviewing, resulting in 400 mock interviews in one week Within three weeks of the Employment Resource Team visit, soldiers in Kuwait began to get hired; one unit alone reported 11 newly-employed soldiers

Throughout April, the soldiers returned home in waves of 100 to 300 at a time Their first stop was Camp Shelby for the Army’s mandatory week-long initial reintegration training The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, Deployment Cycle Support Team facilitated a Welcome Home Center with support from DEED, MnSCU and County Veteran Service Offices to allow soldiers to continue their employment preparation and job search Their efforts yielded even more success stories

Upon their return—to the arms of their spouses, children, mothers, fathers and friends—soldiers were encouraged to take some time to simply enjoy being with their loved ones before reintegration and the search for a new normal

From late June through July, 1BCT soldiers will be coming together for one of six geographically-dispersed, 30-day Yellow Ribbon Reintegration events during which they and their families will attend classes on finding their new normal together Unemployed soldiers will resume the process of planning, networking and practicing interview skills This individualized employment training will continue during a 60-day reintegration event in August

Although IEWG and the 1BCT test group is still in process, it is not too early to call this effort a success Dozens of agencies are promoting the three-step process to help veterans find employment and help employers find veterans to employ

TO LEARN MORE For more details, visit wwwPositivelyMinnesotacom/veteran

Article source
http://www.minnesotabusiness.com/article/coming-home-creating-success-our-veterans



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