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Bridging the Gap for Tennessee Veterans

A joint effort between the public and private sectors helps veterans transition from military to civilian life. (Army Medicine/Flickr)
A joint effort between the public and private sectors helps veterans transition from military to civilian life. (Army Medicine/Flickr)
November 21, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Every month, hundreds of veterans transition out of military service in Tennessee, with 400 joining civilian life at Fort Campbell alone. That transition isn't always easy for veterans entering the job market.

A new program by WorkForce Essentials, called "101 Jobs for the 101st,” was launched this year, and there's been significant demand. Currently the job coaching program helps Fort Campbell personnel. But Charlie Koon, director of workforce and economic development for WorkForce Essentials, said they're hoping to expand the program because of the overwhelming response.

"Recruiting those soldiers that have the talents: they're trained, they're disciplined, they know how to be on time; how to recruit them and find placement for them, not only in our county but in our region," Koon said.

American Job Centers and the Tennessee Department of Labor help fund the program. Recently, AARP Tennessee partnered with WorkForce Essentials to provide headshot photos for veterans to help with their job searches.

Stacy Pennington, community outreach director for AARP Tennessee, said one particularly effective aspect of the project is the mentoring program: volunteer civilians coaching veterans on how to enter today's job market and be successful.

"Our veterans are afraid when they exit the military, because their life has been so structured - so what do they do with their time?” Pennington explained. "And we have discovered that mentors are able to guide them through the process, a friendly ear to listen to what struggles they're going through."

So far, 300 soldiers have been reached by the program, and more than 100 have found jobs. Koon says it couldn't have happened without the contribution of so many in the community.

"It takes a partnership not only with AARP, but with the Tennessee Department of Labor, the American Job Centers, Workforce Essentials, all of us partnering together,” he said. "It's not a one-man band, and without any of those partners, it would be hard to succeed."

To volunteer or for more information, visit aarp.org/veterans.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN