Job Talk: Military spouses create program to help troops, vets build new careers
Special to Stars and Stripes
Finding a job can be hard enough when everything goes right for you. When life hands you a life-altering curveball finding a job becomes even more difficult. Those situations seem to happen more often than we would like.
Thanks to Operation Life Transformed (OLT), the job of finding a job becomes just a bit easier for transitioning veterans, military spouses and those who care for our war wounded.
OLT, founded in March 2007, is a unique 501(c)(3) organization, that has a mission to provide education and resources to servicemembers, veterans and military families.
The goal of OLT is to increase awareness of the long-term needs of these families as they support the spouses or caregivers as they re-enter the workforce. They also provide cost-free direct access to corporate human resource managers and resume assistance.
OLT also helps eligible spouses and designated caregivers of those wounded in war to find and enroll in accessible short-term training certifications.
"When we find ourselves facing a new reality, we don’t always think about the future right away," said Colleen Saffron, co-founder and chief communication officer of OLT. "Instead, we wonder what to do next. OLT helps with that."
OLT is there for the caregiver and the transitioning servicemember but also for military spouses who seek to build a career.
"As military spouses, we move all the time. We accept jobs rather than build careers. OLT strives to remove those barriers," said Saffron adding that it pains her to see military spouses who worked hard for their master’s degrees working as hostesses at local restaurants.
To combat underemployment, unemployment and facilitate workplace re-entry, Saffron, along two other military spouses, founded the program.
Tania Mercurio, a military spouse of 14 years, is the chief executive officer. Kim Marrero, a military spouse of six years, is the chief operating officer.
"Our programs do not focus on obtaining a degree. A degree is worthwhile endeavor but it takes time to achieve that goal. In the meantime, you still have to eat and you have to pay your bills," said Saffron.
OLT, instead, focuses on teaching marketable job skills so spouses and caregivers can get to work and earn a paycheck as quickly as possible.
OLT provides funding for online education, and training certifications that lead to positions with military-friendly employers.
"Some certifications that are offered by our credentialed and reputable partner schools can be completed in only four to 18 months," said Saffron, adding that all the coursework is accomplished on the Web.
A Microsoft Office certification can be achieved in just four months. Other certifications may take up to 18 months to complete, but can also lead to other opportunities.
For example, a spouse or caregiver might become a medical clerk or a medical assistant with only the completion of a computer literacy course and a medical terminology course.
"From there, you can be hired by a doctor’s office or a hospital. If you do a good job for them, it’s conceivable that the employer would then help you on to the next professional level. It happens all the time," Saffron said.
OLT focuses specifically on career fields identified by the Department of Labor as being both portable and in-demand. Examples of courses offered include computer literacy, medical terminology, medical coding, health care administration and Internet technology.
OLT also works with spouses who want to take advantage of the DOD’s MyCAA program, which provides up to $6,000 over two years for training and education.
Ultimately, OLT hopes to become the preferred resource for training, education and career development for military spouses, caregivers of war-wounded, veterans and military-friendly employers.
"We knew when we started the organization, it was needed. We never imagined it would grow into what it has," Saffron said.
To learn more about OLT, visit http://www.operationlifetransformed.org/program.html.
Janet Farley is the author of "The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide" and "The Military Spouse’s Complete Guide to Career Success." Her column appears monthly in Stars and Stripes. She can be contacted at: email@example.com