The Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus is a one-stop resource hub that offers assistance to spouses in finding employment and educational opportunities.
The agencies housed within the career center at 5668 Wickham Ave., include the Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership, Career Skills Program, USO Pathfinders and Army Community Service-Employment Readiness.
“With all of the partners we have, between all their specialties, we can pretty much take care of all of the needs to prepare a spouse for employment,” said Duane Soumis, transition services manager, Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program and Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus director.
During the initial visit to the career center, an assessment is conducted to determine which agency within the center can provide the best employment resources the spouse requires.
The Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership was made possible through a $7.7 million federal grant from the Department of Labor that was designed to support the employment readiness of Fort Campbell’s military spouses and transitioning Soldiers.
“Fort Campbell, the Northern Middle Tennessee Local Workforce Development Board and the Western Kentucky Workforce Board worked together to get the data necessary to apply for the federal grant,” Soumis said. “It is a trade and economic transition grant that is good for two years with the goal to assist 14,000 qualifying spouses and transitioning Soldiers.”
Fort Campbell’s partnership with Campbell Strong now also makes it possible to assist dislocated spouses, Soumis said. A dislocated spouse is someone who gives up employment to move with his or her Soldier to a new duty station.
“The grant can definitely work directly to assist those spouses in overcoming barriers to employment,” he said.
Employment barriers can be anything from the unexpected expense of a license transfer, to needing temporary financial assistance with the cost of child care, gas, clothing or uniforms until the client earns his or her first paycheck, Soumis said.
“We triage and assess each client based on what jobs or training they are wanting and what the bright outlook for them achieving the job is, and we work with them,” said Eric Horton, Campbell Strong Workforce Partnership director.
Through Campbell Strong, the federal grant provides up to $5,000 in employment resource services tailored to the specific needs of each participating spouse or transitioning Soldier. Additionally, the program offers an incentive to employers in the form of work-based training packages that will pay half of the spouse’s or transitioning Soldier’s salary for the first eight-10 weeks on the job to offset the cost of initial training.
“If a spouse does not have a skillset, we can pay for [the training] and it does not use their Soldier’s GI Bill,” Horton said. “It doesn’t have a rank restriction for qualifying for services or funding, and we assist in reimbursing ancillary costs like transportation or child care costs. The main focus of the grant is to help spouses, there are at least 15,000 spouses on Fort Campbell, we’ve only assisted 279 spouses within the past 12 months. We have a lot of resources left for spouses to utilize.”
To explore Campbell Strong’s resources, call 931-802-2176 or email email@example.com for more information.
“Every part of the career center can cater to spouses,” said Lindsey Geraci, USO Fort Campbell Pathfinder site manager.
USO Pathfinder also offers interview prep training, hosts employment readiness workshops, homebuying workshops and financial workshops. Pathfinders can connect spouses with employment and educational resources, while an employment readiness adviser can provide resources to assist with a career plan, job search and creating a resume.
“In USO Pathfinders we work with Soldiers 12 months before they transition out of the Army and up to 12 months afterwards,” Geraci said. “We work with military spouses all of the time, because military spouses are always in a sense of transition. We provide assistance on employment-related goals, education, VA benefits, health and wellness. We are a one-stop resource for military spouses.”
Every spouse who goes through the Pathfinders program gets an action plan to work from.
“We want you to succeed and reach your goals,” Geraci said. “We stick with you and we want to check in with you and see how everything is going, and if you decided to change your mind and go in a different direction we can still work with you. Even if you leave before completing services here, Pathfinders are located in 15 different locations around the United States, and if we don’t have a Pathfinder office at the post where your spouse is stationed, there are still offices in the area that can work with you.”
To connect with USO Pathfinder, call 270-697-4381 to schedule an appointment to speak with an adviser.
Spouses seeking federal employment and wanting assistance with the USAJobs.gov application should make an appointment with Abrell Jones, the ACS employment readiness adviser.
“I advise clients on creating resumes, navigating USAJobs.gov, how to register and set up a profile, and what buzz words to use when applying,” Jones said. “I also teach a one-day workshop, three hours long, once a month. The workshop explains everything they need to do to set up a profile and what sort of hiring paths they need to search for.”
There could be more spouses seeking federal jobs, but many do not know how to apply, which is where Jones can help, she said.
“They don’t always understand how the preferences work or which apply to them, or the fact they need to update their forms on the website every 30 days,” Jones said. “Even if I can’t help them with a federal job – because it takes a while to get one – I can connect with them with resources to get a civilian job in the interim. If I can’t help them, I’ll always help them access other resources for employment. A lot of spouses don’t realize the opportunities they have access to now, a lot of them don’t know they can get into the system and what all is out there for them.”
To set up an appointment with Jones, call 270-798-4412.
Career Skills Program
The staff of the Fort Campbell Career Skills Program and career center provide support through counseling and career-ready programs to make it smoother for spouses and transitioning Soldiers to enter the workforce.
There are 14 career skills programs offered on Fort Campbell, and five of the programs are available for spouses to participate in. These programs are the COMSTAR program, a 16-day training program to become a telecommunications technician; Mechatronics, a 10- to 16-week program including training in electrical, mechanical components, pneumatic and hydraulic controls; Hiller Transition to Trades, a 30-, 60-, and 90-day program providing heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical training; Onward to Opportunity, a 10-week program in information technology, business management and human resources; and the HBI Troops to Construction program, a free 12-week training program in carpentry.
“These are five opportunities for our spouses to participate in training opportunities for careers,” Teresa English, career skills program region 1 coordinator. “Our Onward to Opportunity is quite honestly our most popular program for spouses. It has a lot of flexibility and most of the course is online, which makes it ideal for spouses with children at home.”
The Onward to Opportunity program is great for spouses who may have not worked for an extended period of time.
“It gives them an opportunity to get back out into workforce,” said Karen Douglas, program coordinator for Onward to Opportunity. “The people they network with in the program ... can also provide lots of insight as well for them. We’ve had stay-at-home parents who haven’t worked for years and years, who may have felt they weren’t qualified for work anymore and we can provide them with the resources while also being convenient and comfortable for them in their situation.”
With several different options offered through the Career Skills Program, spouses can take advantage of the resources and training toward their next steps, English said.
“We are blessed here, where we have been able to expand our programs to become available for spouses and we want them to participate,” she said. “We even have spouse teams, married couples, who participate together.”
The career center is ready to welcome more spouses in 2020 and help them achieve their goals toward the future.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to help any client who comes through our doors leave with a better opportunity,” English said. “When they leave the gates of Fort Campbell, we want them to be secure in their future, whatever their career goals are.”
To learn more about the Career Skills Program visit the career center in person, or call 270-412-1720.
Maria McClure, editor-in-chief of the Fort Campbell Courier, contributed to this story.