From witc.edu: “Veterans enter workforce with help from Wisconsin’s technical colleges” — After nearly five years in the Army and three tours in Iraq, Brent Rapos found educational and career success at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. Rapos chose accounting because he always liked numbers.

“It had been a number of years since I had been in school and when I started taking classes, I wasn’t sure I could switch careers,” Rapos said. He enrolled in online classes through WITC so he could continue to work and support his family.

Slowly, his comfort level with the college grew and so did his confidence. Rapos completed his associate degree and is working toward an online bachelor’s degree. He also started a tax return preparation business. That confidence was the key.

The former sergeant credits Cheryl Pich, financial aid advisor at the WITC Rice Lake campus, with helping him access the Wisconsin GI Bill benefits available to him.

“She is so helpful with what benefits are best for you and all the different paperwork required. Cheryl was very proactive, getting the information needed before the deadlines,” he said. “I also felt she really appreciated my service.”

Veterans who faced challenges during their service return to Wisconsin with leadership skills that can be a great match for the education and training available through the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS).  By accessing the WTCS, veterans contribute to their college community, which only enhances their value to Wisconsin business and industry.

According to the American Council on Education (ACE), more than 2 million soldiers are transitioning to civilian life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The number of students using their Wisconsin GI Bill benefits in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) has increased dramatically since these new state education benefits became available during the 2005-06 school year, when about 1,000 eligible veterans or the eligible spouses or dependents first used the program.  During the 2011-12 academic year, almost 4,500 Wisconsin veterans or spouses or dependents used the Wisconsin GI Bill in the WTCS.

“We help vets in any way we can,” says Terry Klein, the director of financial aid for WITC. “We will answer any questions via phone, e-mail, or in person and we try to meet with each veteran in person to explain the process and gather the information we need to process their benefits,” Klein says. “We keep up to date on any changes to educational benefits so that we can pass this information on to our veteran students. We also work to resolve any problems that might come up in regards to their benefits.”

Once enrolled in classes at WITC, the college has another form of assistance for veterans. Organizations for veterans exist or are quickly being added at WITC’s four main campuses to help provide useful information and resources to veterans throughout the school year.

One such group at WITC’s Rice Lake campus offers support to veterans for academic success. It also provides a place and time for veterans to gather, network, and support one another, and helps to identify unmet needs unique to veterans.

“WITC works hard to identify the needs of veterans and how to best help veterans and their families succeed,” said WITC President Bob Meyer.  “Veterans bring a wealth of experience and add tremendously to our college communities and we are honored to help them succeed.”

 

From nbc15.com: “VIDEO REPORT: Madison College Helping Student Veterans” — Adjusting to life after serving overseas can be difficult as it is, then add going back to school to that list. A new clinic at Madison College’s Truax Campus is helping ease the veterans’ transition.

Randy Bouzek served overseas for several years. When he got back, he realized he was missing one thing, a college degree. He’s now a student at Madison College. He says “VA Connections” will help him as well as other vets adjust to school and succeed at getting their education. The clinic will offer therapy, crisis management and health care.

The vets will then be able to focus on their futures and bring their leadership and experiences to the college to share with classmates.

There were at least 800 veterans enrolled at Madison College last year.

 

From matctimes.com: “Veteran Student Organization underway” —  The Veteran Student Organization is an organization for MATC veteran students returning home from deployment. Like BSU or LSO, this organization helps students with financial needs to attend classes at MATC.

Student accommodations are provided for veteran students. They provide financial and emotional support when needed.

The Veteran Student Organization is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8: 30 a.m.- 4 p.m. in room 322 of the Main Building.

From postcrescent.com: “Job search aid offered to veterans” — GRAND CHUTE – The Student Employment Service department at Fox Valley Technical College is offering a free summer job search series for military veterans of all eras.

Job Search Investigation for Veterans is an eight-week employment program designed specifically to deal with the challenges local military veterans face as the transition into civilian and work life.

Session are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. beginning Thursday and are held every Thursday, excluding July 5, through Aug.19 in room A154 inside entrance 15 at FVTC’s main campus. Topics include how to leverage service to enhance employability, leadership skills, and networking strategies, in addition to exploring several job search tactics.

For more information, call 920-735-5627 or visit www.fvtc.edu/jobsearchprograms.

From oci.wi.gov: “Accelerated Certificate Program Now Available for Veterans at Madison College” — In honor of the Year of the Veteran, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that Madison College has designed a pilot project that would create an accelerated insurance certificate program for veterans. This accelerated certificate program will lead to jobs for veterans in the Wisconsin insurance community.

The project was created through the efforts of Madison College, the Wounded Warriors Regiment, the Dane County Veterans Office, and insurance industry partners with assistance from the Office of Commissioner of Insurance, the Department of Financial Institutions, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This pilot program highlights what we can do when we all work together,” said Governor Walker. “Wisconsin based insurance companies are looking for good employees and our returning veterans are looking for good jobs. By partnering with Madison College and veterans groups, this program can help grow our insurance industry and provide great opportunities for our returning heroes.”

The pilot program focuses on insurance industry jobs. Wisconsin has the 5th largest domestic insurance industry in the country with over 300 companies residing in the state. However, many of these companies have noticed a shortage in qualified employees while at the same time experiencing employment growth and coping with an aging workforce.

The accelerated certificate program will allow veterans to obtain an insurance certificate from Madison College after a single semester of intensive instruction and study. Classes are tentatively scheduled to allow interested veterans to focus their class time to a single day per week, with some classes possibly held on Saturday. The program is also working with employers to help veterans find work in the insurance industry even before classes begin in September.

“As the Wisconsin economy continues to grow, our workforce needs to be ready,” said Governor Walker. “Our state agencies will continue to partner with leaders like U. S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Michael Gillitzer from the Wounded Warriors Regiment, Martha Lester-Mittenzwei of Madison College, BJ. Ganem from Dane County Veterans Office and others to ensure our veterans are prepared for the opportunities to come.”

From sheboyganpress.com: “Area military veterans find companies ready to hire” — CLEVELAND — Corey Evenson of Manitowoc has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Ashwaubenon.

Perhaps, the U.S. Army reservist’s next overseas assignment may be for The Manitowoc Company.

“We have facilities all over the world … about 75 percent of our current openings are salaried from entry level to vice president,” company recruiter Erin Pierre told the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay sophomore at Tuesday’s Veterans Career and Benefits Fair.

The global cranes and foodservice equipment manufacturer, with facilities in 26 countries, was one of a couple dozen employers and service providers at the event held at Lakeshore Technical College.

Dan Heilman, vice president of Operations for Invincible Office Furniture Solutions in Manitowoc, was able to quickly identify the advantage of hiring veterans, in addition to tax credits.

“Organizational skills … veterans are very task-oriented and don’t require a lot of ‘resupervision,'” Heilman said.

Invincible is looking for assemblers, material handlers and general laborers to help make office furniture, including desks, computer tables and file cabinets.

One of the veterans reviewing Invincible’s job openings was Sheboygan Falls’ Richard James, 52, who served in the Army from 1982-85 and will graduate next month with a two-year associate degree in nuclear technology.

“I have to explore all job options and believe the knowledge I’ve gained here at LTC can be useful in other industries, too, not just nuclear,” James said.

A brochure from the state Department of Workforce Development’s Wisconsin Job Center identified “10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran” including:

» Accelerated learning curve

» Leadership

» Teamwork

» Diversity and inclusion in action

» Efficient performance under pressure

» Respect for procedures

» Technology and globalization

» Integrity

» Conscious of health and safety standards

» Triumph over adversity

Military to civilian

Marcea Ann Weiss was in the Army from 1994-2003 and served as a Blackhawk helicopter test pilot and maintenance manager.

“About 200,000 men and women leave the military every year,” Weiss said. She said veterans should think about what they enjoyed about their military service and take it into account when performing their civilian job search.

Weiss has written a book, “Leaving the Military: Your Deployment Guide to Corporate America.”

She was at the fair as the Midwest branch manager of Merendino Cemetery Care, which performs grounds management, interments, construction, mausoleum restoration and horticulture to religious, private and national cemeteries.

It participates in the Veteran GI Bill Apprenticeship program.

It is one of many state, federal or volunteer programs intended to reduce the unemployment rate of veterans.

According to data released recently by the federal Bureau of Labor statistics, the unemployment rate for those who served post-9/11 was 12.1 percent last year, up from 11.5 percent in 2010 and well above the national average of about 9 percent.

Weiss said leadership skills is the No. 1 asset many veterans possess that can benefit a private sector employer.

She said even soldiers whose “MOS” (Military Occupational Specialty) was “11-Bravo” — or infantryman — was trained to be a platoon leader and acquire people management abilities.

Weiss said she helps employers learn how “to speak veteran” and appreciate that former armed forces members are able to take orders but also adapt and adjust for maximum efficiency.

She doesn’t have to sell Tom Faley, who was at the fair to recruit potential new hires for Sargento Foods.

“Veterans tend to have great leadership qualities … they can see (the company’s) vision and communicate it,” Faley said.

Veterans are among the valuable new employees that have helped, Faley said, grow Sargento four-fold in the 25 years he has been with the company to a work force now totaling about 1,500 with plants in Kiel, Hilbert, Elkhart Lake, Plymouth, Bellingham, Wash., and North Sioux City, S.D.

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Lawmakers seek to aid unemployed vets” — AMHERST — Randy Rosholt had trouble finding work when he returned from each of his two tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait. Rosholt, 45 of Amherst, eventually found a job, but officials say many veterans in the state aren’t so lucky.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates there are 21.3 million veterans in the U.S., and the state estimates there are about 400,000 vets in Wisconsin. The unemployment rate for veterans in February was 7.7 percent; higher than the 6.9 percent overall state unemployment rate.

The state Legislature recently passed a set of bills designed to help veterans find work and receive training for those jobs.

One bill, signed by Gov. Scott Walker this month, makes it easier for veterans to get civilian credentials for certifications they’ve earned in the military. Another bill, sponsored by several state legislators, including Democratic Stevens Point legislators Rep. Louis Molepske Jr. and Sen. Julie Lassa, will give employers a tax credit for hiring disabled veterans.

Those bills will help a great deal, said Portage County Veteran Service Officer Mike Clements.

“Veteran unemployment is 4 percent higher than it is for civilians,” Clements said. “This is a huge problem we deal with every day.”

Clements said veterans learn a lot of valuable skills in the military, but those skills aren’t always acknowledged by employers.

“In some ways, one could say their service put them behind their peers, who were going to school while they were at war,” Clements said.

The average age of veterans returning to school after military service is 24, said Ann Whipp, veteran certification official at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

And those coming back also deal with the difficulties of readjusting to civilian life, she said.

“Not only is it the school setting that they’ve not been in for several years, but they’re readjusting to civilian life,” Whipp said.

Mid-State Technical College Stevens Point Campus Dean Steve Smith said staff members see the same thing at the Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield campuses.

Smith said students who are veterans often sit in the back of the classroom so no one is behind them.

“They need to be in control of the environment,” Smith said.

Rosholt, who still is active in the Wisconsin National Guard, said he dealt with that coming back from his two tours. He had lived in Milwaukee but had trouble with the hustle and bustle of city life after being in a combat zone, so he moved to central Wisconsin.

Rosholt said he’s still dealing with issues as he readjusts from his service overseas. Sometimes when he drives, his eyes scan the road for improvised explosive devices, something he learned on convoy missions. He grows nervous when vehicles drive too close to him, forcing him to readjust so he has space. Fireworks around the Fourth of July can still put him into battle mode.

“Over there, you have to be on guard,” Rosholt said. “You couldn’t trust anybody.”

Those things can be difficult to deal with for soldiers trying to look for employment or earn their degree, which might be a reason why unemployment among soldiers is higher than their civilian counterparts.

But Rosholt said there’s been a big change in the way the state handles the issues of soldiers returning home between his first tour from 2005 to 2006 and his second from 2009 to 2010. He attended three or four reintegration seminars that didn’t exist after his first tour.

“I think when I came back from my first tour, the state was just starting to figure out how to deal with us,” Rosholt said. “I noticed the second time around when I came back, services for war veterans was very helpful. There’s a lot more participation.”

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