By Sgt. Spencer Rhodes, 107th MPAD
CAMP BLANDING JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Fla. (Jan. 8, 2012) — As unemployment has fluctuated in Florida, the National Guard’s numbers have not passed unscathed. In an effort to curb a rising unemployment rate among Soldiers, the state of Florida, in cooperation with the Paxen Learning Corporation, created Operation Kickstart, which focuses on assisting Soldiers and their specific abilities to find occupations.
According to Roy Clark, vice president of legislative affairs for Paxen, Adjutant General of Florida, Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw, approached them about his concern for the 17 percent of the Florida National Guard who are unemployed. Paxen is already involved in running two additional veteran assistance programs that help students and adults create job skills and remain in school: Forward March and About Face. Titshaw suggested allocating a portion of that funding to help veterans receive the assistance they needed.
Operation Kickstart uses an online database that takes the Military Occupational Specialty of an individual to reference open job opportunities that will complement skills accumulated during their service in the military.
“Since our start on October 15,, 2011, we have helped register 600 soldiers in the Military Pipeline online database,” said Clark. “Currently 165 are being personally coached, thirteen of those have recently been placed in jobs and 5 more in schools.”
In addition to Operation Kickstart, the state offers multiple resources to help veterans find unemployment or even start a business; the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Work Source, and the Employ Florida Marketplace website, which functions in a similar capacity to Operation Kickstart, are all resources that offer personal help with completing resumes and searching for fitting employment opportunities.
For Sgt. Charlene Sands, being able to have her MOS translated into a civilian applicable term was highly valuable.
“It’s good to get it translated into the civilian life, because I’ve actually only been a military technician for the past four years, I had always been in the civilian world, so I only ever had a civilian job,” said Sands. “Now with my MOS, a lot of people don’t really understand what I do, you could tell them the MOS; but they don’t know what 92 Alpha means. So yes, that was definitely helpful.”
Staff Sgt. Jerry Gesell, a career counselor who works with Recruiting and Retention at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, says that many problems Soldiers may have during a National Guard drill are associated with their life and job status in their time away from drill. If a Soldier is jobless, they may not afford to feed themselves in a healthy manner or exercise frequently which will affect their job performance or physical fitness results when they attend drill.
“What’s great about all this is that it wasn’t always a focus, for unemployed Soldiers specifically,” said Gesell. “Now there are resources that cater to their specific needs. Since there are 28 days they aren’t at drill, the question is, ‘How can we make those 28 days better for them’, so their days at drill are improved as well.”
Additional Information about Operation Kickstart can be found at www.usmilitarypipeline.com or call (855) 830-4077.