Many veterans have difficulty transitioning from the military to civilian life. For women veterans it can be even more challenging.
Several have trouble finding or keeping a job because of post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, or medical or physical limitations. Many also struggle with being single mothers, face homelessness and need basic essentials such as food and help paying bills.
Catholic Charities offers a Career Essentials course through the Women Veterans Services program that teaches women various job and life skills to earn better jobs and become self-sufficient.
“Many of our clients went straight from high school to the military,” said Vivian Wechie, Senior Employment Coach, who coordinates the Career Essentials class. “We want to help them take the skills they learned in the military and transfer that to corporate America.”
Throughout the 12-week, 26-course program, the students are taught verbal and written communication skills, how to write a resume, interview skills, time management and planning, and how to create a budget. They also attend workshops on teamwork, how to work in a hostile environment, and receive one-on-one coaching outside the class for those with specific challenges.
“The women really open up to each other and start to talk,” Wechie said. “It’s empowering; they feel appreciated and important. The course helps them regain their dignity.”
The course concludes with a graduation ceremony where all of the graduates wear black suits, and get their hair and makeup done. At the graduation in December, State Representative Dr. Alma A. Allen spoke to the graduates and presented them with a certificate of completion. Following the ceremony, the ladies released red balloons as a symbolic gesture to let go of anything negative in their pasts and release positive thoughts.
The most recent valedictorian of the program is now a business owner. Her sister even began taking the course after initially only attending in a supportive role.
For the women who graduate from the Career Essentials program, they can attend additional courses that teach leadership, entrepreneurial and supervisor skills to succeed at their current jobs but also help to earn promotions.