One organization is making an extra effort to help former military members transition into civilian life by helping them find jobs in the Kentuckiana area.
Where Opportunity Knox, a local nonprofit organization, was created by a coalition of three chambers of commerce: Greater Louisville Inc., One Southern Indiana and the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce. The organization, in its third year, is more than just a job service, said Eileen Pickett, interim executive director.
“It’s obviously a great thing to do for people who’ve served, but we sort of come at this from an economic development point of view,” Pickett said. “We’re thinking about, what are the potential constraints to businesses being able to grow or to be able to attract two businesses to the region? One of the top challenges is issues related to workforce talent. That’s really what drives Where Opportunity Knox.”
Pickett said that from the Army alone, more than 100,000 people every year are coming back into civilian life with strong, highly technical skills. The organization connects veterans to people called Regional Veteran Connectors, along with a network of volunteers, who work with them to create resumes and understand civilian work life.
“Veterans actually see what the civilian workforce looks like,” said Ceci Conway, public relations representative. “Many of them have never actually seen it. They’re not sure what to wear, what’s going on, how to evaluate the opportunity.”
Most RVCs are in the Louisville area, but there is one at Fort Campbell, reaching veterans in that area. Connectors have also traveled to Fort Bragg and other military installations to recruit talent to the area.
The organization, which started in September 2014, originally had a goal to connect 10,000 transitioning veterans and military spouses to jobs and careers by the end of 2017, and nearly 6,000 have been connected to date.
This year, the organization began offering employer showcases, in which veterans visit local businesses to get a first-hand look at what it’s like to work in those industries. Job seekers get to talk to people who work there, including employees — some of whom are veterans — and management, to learn what types of jobs are available and what is expected of employees. The employers get a chance to showcase their businesses to potential employees.
Companies that have hosted employer showcases to date include Amazon, Flex Films, GE Appliances, LG&E and KU Energy, Norton Healthcare, Raytheon, TQL and UPS with more planned this week at Beam and Family Scholar House.
“Some are coming out (of the military) after 20 or 25 years,” Pickett said. “They don’t know what it’s like to work at a production facility or a health care company. The showcases are a great opportunity to see what these industries and the region have to offer.”
At the GE Appliances event on Oct. 11, almost 30 clients came from Fort Campbell. The group also attended the Fort Knox Education and Career Fair that same day.
Where Opportunity Knox also provides an online resource for families to get information about the overall quality of life in this region including jobs, schools and more, helping them decide if Louisville is the right place for them.
Where Opportunity Knox will visit Beam Suntory in Clermont, Ky., on Wednesday, Nov. 15, and Family Scholar House in Louisville on Friday, Nov. 17. The visits are open to clients of Where Opportunity Knox, but any veteran can contact the organization to get involved.
Eric Schweighauser participated in the event at Raytheon. “Never pass up an event with Where Opportunity Knox while you are transitioning, and even if you have been out for a while,” he said in a press release. “I went on a facility visit with Where Opportunity Knox and ended up with an interview and a job.”
Pickett agreed with his statement: “For the individual, it’s super valuable,” she said. “But for the employer, we’re essentially delivering talent to their doorstep.”
The post has been updated to correct how often military members are transitioning.