MERS/Goodwill program helping veterans find jobs

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Navy veteran Patrick Doyle of New Madrid, Mo., is enrolling at Southeast Missouri State University in his desire to change careers with assistance from the Vet Success program through MERS/Goodwill. (Fred Lynch)

He gave seven years of his life in service to his country, and it didn't require a job interview. Back in 1978, Ricky Moore just had to pass a physical and he was made a mechanic in the U.S. Army.

Finding a civilian job in today's economy was much tougher, he said, but Moore had help from the Vet Success program through MERS/Goodwill in Missouri.

"In the military, you just have to pass a physical and you're in. In the civilian world, there are personal skills you need to approach an employer," said Moore, 55, who lives near Doe Run, Mo.

Less than 90 days after he started the Vet Success program through MERS/Goodwill, he began working as a behavioral health technician at a local mental health treatment facility. He's since left that position and is working in a clerical position with the Veterans Affairs at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis.

"I couldn't have done it without them. I would have been lost," Moore said.

Some veterans follow a civilian career path based on what they were doing in the military. Patrick Doyle of New Madrid, Mo., had been a firefighter in the U.S. Navy, and when he left the military, he continued to work as an emergency responder.

When Moore left the Army, he had been a fuel truck driver so he'd gotten a civilian job driving a truck. But after two back surgeries, he couldn't do that type of work anymore and had to switch gears. He attended the University of Alabama, majoring in social work, but when he got out of school he couldn't find a job.

"I was talking with my counselors at VA, and they said they're [MERS/Goodwill] going to help you find a job. They're going to advocate for you, they're going to prepare you. And they did," Moore said.

MERS/Goodwill just received a $226,000 grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue the The Vet Success program, which began last year, to help disabled veterans find jobs. The grant, which begins Oct. 3, will cover the costs of the program for up to five years.

Beth Brown, assistant vice president with MERS/Goodwill who oversees Vet Success, said the program has served more than 200 veterans statewide in the last year.

"Many veterans who have a service connected disability can't do what they used to do before their service in the military," she said.

One of the first steps in the program is a series of assessment tests to determine what each veteran has an aptitude for. These include both written and hands-on tests.

"They started networking in this area and looking for jobs with my qualifications," Moore said. "They found the place, set up interviews for me. All I had to do was show up."

But before he went to his interview, Tammy Thurman, a vocational educator with MERS/Goodwill in Cape Girardeau, coached Moore on how to answer common interview questions and how not to overdress or underdress for the interview.

"A lot of individuals just haven't had to look for work in a new field, and the job market has changed," Brown said. "The application process itself different from it used to be even five years ago."

Moore said he now knows more about the market and landing a job because of the program.

"I didn't realize that today in the job market, it's not always about what kind of degree you've got, because everybody's got a degree," he said. "They taught me how to sell yourself. I probably can go on any job interview now."

For many veterans, making the transition from military to civilian life can be challenging, especially for those with post-traumatic stress disorder like Doyle, who recently completed the assessment portion of the Vet Success program.

Doyle served in the U.S. Navy from 1988 to 1991 and was stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington. While in the military, he worked as a firefighter, so upon returning to civilian life, he found a job where he could used those skills. Now, because of PTSD from both his military service and firefighting career, he's looking for a job in a different field.

With assistance from the Vet Success program, he chose to look at environmental sciences and has applied for admission to Southeast Missouri State University. He hopes to work with green energy.

"Being in the military and then in a paramilitary organization, such as the fire service, where everything is very structured, may come across differently to people, almost as if abrasive. They're so used to everything being in order, they have a hard time getting the social skills where everything is relaxed," Doyle said.

He said the assistance he received from MERS/Goodwill was one of the greatest experiences of his life.

"I didn't feel like I was just a number or part of a welfare program. These people are truly interested in helping people in circumstances such as mine get back to being a productive member of society," Doyle said.

Services provided to veterans through the Vet Success program include vocational evaluations, education planning, case management, employment services, independent living assessments, life skills, job coaching and job site analysis.

For more information on the MERS/Goodwill Vet Success program, visit vetsuccess.gov.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

340 South Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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