Skills for the 21st Century

Easterseals Veteran Staffing Network Helps Vets Succeed

Veteran unemployment is dropping, but underemployment for the ex-military trying to find meaningful work in civilian job markets still remains a problem. According to the latest reports, nearly one-third of veteran job seekers are underemployed—a rate that is more than 15 percent higher than non-veteran job seekers. In a survey of 1,022 veterans working full-time in white-collar professions conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, researchers found that two-thirds of the respondents said they were not using three or more of their skills that could have been applicable to employers.

Easterseals Veteran Staffing Network (VSN) is well on top of this fluctuating trend and has been helping to combat veteran unemployment in a wholistic way. Since 2013, VSN has been focusing on the individual needs of veterans and employers. This means the VSN takes a personal approach towards veteran employment by matching the right candidate to the right job, which often leads to a smoother transition to the civilian world and long-term employment success.

VSN is supported through fees paid by employers and through contributions from companies and other donors. Capital One is proud to be the Founding Social Impact Partner for this effort and has worked with the organization over the past five years to hire veterans and their families into positions across the company. Since the program began, over 8,500 veterans, military spouses, National Guard, reservists, and Wounded Warriors have been coached, and nearly 1,500 placed in a variety of industries including IT, logistics, healthcare, government, finance, nonprofit, skilled trades and administration.

VSN recruiters provide comprehensive support

Angie Gresh is a senior recruiter for Easterseals’ Veteran Staffing Network and part of the team that placed 300 veterans in meaningful careers in the past year. To her, each veteran is an individual with specific skills and experiences that require a tailored approach and different levels of support to join or rejoin the workforce successfully. For candidates who need more support, she works with the VSN career coaches to provide comprehensive assistance, which can include resume creation, mock interviews, professional behavior and dress guidance, or even just computer and transportation access. “We walk candidates through every aspect of the process,” she said. And she stays in touch with her candidates once they are employed. “I check in with them and go back to them for referrals.”

Mike Sanderson, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, lost his job and discovered he had a serious illness. After an exhaustive job search, he reached out to Gresh and Easterseals VSN where they were able to help tweak his resume and put him in touch with his future employer. The job offer was “a game-changer” for him and his wife, especially after Gresh helped him negotiate his salary and benefits.

Angie Gresh at the Easterseals’ Veteran Staffing Network helped Mike Sanderson secure a job when he needed it the most.

“Now I have the job of my dreams that will change our lives forever,” Mike Sanderson said. “My family and I were facing the possibility of being homeless. Now, thanks to the Veteran Staffing Network, we are looking for our next home with a renewed faith and a sincere gratitude to everyone at VSN, and for Angie for having my back. In 2 weeks, we have gone from no job, no hope, no home to employment at a dream job, financial stability, and a sense of fulfillment. I have also beaten my cancer, and finally, things are looking bright again. I don't know how I can ever repay Angie and VSN. My vow is to make everyone there proud of me and to demonstrate that they made the right decision in placing their faith in me. Words cannot express my gratitude.”

Air Force veteran translates military skills to civilian role

With help from the Veteran Staffing Network, Erin Nelson found a job making good use of her Air Force skills and experience.

Erin Nelson went through ROTC at Marquette University in Wisconsin and went straight into the Air Force. She proudly served her country for seven and a half years, gaining valuable experience in the fields of intelligence and mission operations, anti-terrorism and flight training. After leaving the Air Force, she spent months unsuccessfully looking for work that would put her skills and experience to good use. Realizing she needed help, Nelson reached out to the VSN and worked with career coach Sin Kook, who helped her focus a search on careers that connected with her strengths and interests. “Sin answered all the questions I had. She was that unbiased person I could go to that wouldn’t make me feel like I should already know the answers. She helped me prepare for all interviews and presentations, but it was more than that. When I was down after not hearing any responses from jobs for a while she would talk me through it,” said Nelson.

Now, Nelson is a crime analyst at the Fairfax County Police Department where she applies her intelligence background to analyzing police reports and looking for crime patterns.

Veterans giving back to other veterans

Eric Jones accepted a fulltime basketball scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C. and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in radio and television communications. Since he had a desire to travel the world, he joined the military in 1997 immediately after graduation. Jones served in the United States Navy for four years with deployments in Iraq and several other areas in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.

After his honorable discharge from the Navy, Jones found employment in the D.C. area, but was eventually laid off. He continued job searching unsuccessfully until he attended a veteran’s employment workshop at Easterseals DC MD VA and met Sam Adams, a VSN specialist and retired veteran, who told him about a driver position open at the Easterseals’ Adult and Senior Service Center in Silver Spring. The rest, as they say, is history. After driving for three months, Jones was promoted to a project coordinator. “I love every moment of it! I’m just glad I met Sam,” Eric Jones said. “Everyone is down on their luck sometimes, but I’m just glad fate brought us together.”

Adams served 23 years in the United States Army and knows all too well what it feels like for a soldier to navigate his way in the civilian world. “I was only 18-years-old when I joined the military,” he said. “I had to work hard, so I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of my life to giving back to our veterans.”

Sam Adams (left) and Eric Jones, both veterans, help others through their work at Easterseals.