Fort Campbell career center works to improve employment rates

Lauren Kovaleski, USO Pathfinders career counselor; Alicia Edwards, Career Skills program counselor, Duane Soumis, Transition Services manager, Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program and Fort Campbell Career Center Campus director; Stephanie Nester, Career Skills program counselor; Cheryl Puga, USO Pathfinders career counselor; and Rebecca Weaver, Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership counselor, recently for a planning session at the Fort Campbell Career Center, 5668 Wickham Ave., to discuss new programs and events geared toward Fort Campbell spouses and Soldiers.

The Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus is looking to empower the women of Fort Campbell in the upcoming year, brainstorming events and programs specifically geared toward giving female Soldiers who are preparing to transition from military service, and female spouses a leg up as they explore new career options.

“We are hoping female spouse employment perspectives will climb,” said Duane Soumis, transition services manager, Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program and Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus director. “One of the things we are struggling with is what careers do they actually want. The goal is to plan as a team how we can create more events and programs directly related to female spouse employment. We’ve mapped a pretty good plan for throughout the coming year where we are going to try a lot of unique things.”

One of the unique ways the staff of the career center plans to assist women – spouses and transitioning Soldiers – is through special events. On Feb. 19, the career center and the staff of Nashville Wounded Warrior Project will partner to host the Empowering Women Career Summit, during which women who attend can receive interview advice and training.

“Everyone knows we have an underemployment of female spouses as well as female Soldiers transitioning from military employment,” Chanel Diaz-Woodall, career counselor with Nashville Wounded Warrior Project said. “I don’t think this is a new interest in promoting these events and services, more so it’s an opportunity to offer a leg up. It’s important to have a connection with employment and with each other.”

During the summit, a panel of individuals who have found success in the corporate world will provide attendees with advice and answer questions. Additionally, Ulta Beauty representatives will give professional makeovers and Dress for Success representatives will offer advice on appropriate work and interview outfits.

“We are trying to increase their confidence,” Diaz-Woodall said. “We are going to be discussing salary negotiations, fashion, makeup, personal branding and making sure they are applying for positions they are qualified for. We have found that men apply for positions they aren’t necessarily qualified for and women have a tendency to be more subtle when applying. This is a launching pad for their careers and the next steps in their lives.”

Through the summit, Fort Campbell career center staff and their partners hope to help connect women with opportunities that work for them.

“This event will help address gaps in resumes or the unique challenges women transitioning out of the military may face,” Diaz-Woodall said. “This event is just a product of all of us seeing a need and wanting to make changes toward it.”

Even with the drive to improve the number of participants using the resources at the career center there are already female spouses who have experienced success in finding careers they enjoy.

“I found out about the services at the career center by attending the newcomers’ brief for Soldiers and spouses just arriving to Fort Campbell,” Rachel D’Ercole said. “I learned there were some interesting programs and options and they help spouses so I wanted to check it out.”

D’Ercole said the staff of the career center has worked with her to find the exact job that would work for her and her Family.

“They were very, very good to me. They were very patient and they went over anything and everything I had questions about as many times as I needed,” D’Ercole said. “My counselor, Rebecca, was just phenomenal. She helped me explore everything available and worked so hard with me.”

D’Ercole was able to access resources and receive help in entering a work program with Jenkins and Wynne Ford, Honda, and Lincoln in Clarksville. D’Ercole now works as a sales representative for Ford.

In addition to assisting with job placement and career skill training, the staff at the career center also assists with resume writing and preparing clients for interviews.

Wendy Barton came to the career center in July to receive resume help from Campbell Strong.

“I stumbled upon the resources by accident,” Barton said. “I needed help on a resume, it’s hard to gauge what is needed when you apply on usajobs.com for Department of Defense jobs. I happened to be in the pharmacy and a person mentioned there were resources on base who help with putting together resumes.”

Barton eventually found her way to the career center where she received help throughout the resume writing and application process.

“I kept thinking, ‘why doesn’t everybody know about this,’” Barton said. “I think it can benefit everybody. It was the only resume I submitted. It took two months to even hear back. I didn’t think I had gotten it, but then I received the email and I actually teared up, I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited.”

Barton now works as a pharmacist on Fort Campbell, alternating between the Town Center and the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital pharmacies.

The goal is to draw in more women, like D’Ercole and Barton, as well as female Soldiers, to use the resources available to them at the career center. Women using the career center services also will aid the staff in developing new career programs that might be needed.

“Real thought goes into figuring out what people need based on what we observe at the center,” said Lauren Kovaleski, career counselor with USO Pathfinders. “Based on things we have been able to assist with and areas where we feel there is a gap. We are working on resourcing to fill some of those gaps, but it’s a lot of work.”’

The Women’s Summit isn’t the only thing in the works, more career programs are expected to be developed in 2020.

“The Office of Veterans Affairs reached out to me and asked if I wanted to pilot three new programs specifically for women,” Soumis said. “This has been something I’ve wanted to do more of before, so this is perfect timing.”

With many new projects in the works at the Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus, now is the perfect time to reach out and see what services and programs may be available. Make an appointment with a counselor at 270-412-1720, go to the center at 5668 Wickham Ave, or visit https://home.army.mil/campbell/index.php/about/Garrison/dhr/career-center-and-campus.