Sue May understands the difference that a good helper can make.
Thirty years ago, as she was leaving the U.S. Air Force, there was the helpful Veteran Service Officer in Nebraska who guided May through some hospital paperwork and started her down the path to getting a college degree. Much later, she met a Sioux City workforce advisor who helped prepare May to re-enter the job market following six years at home raising children.
May followed in their footsteps just over two years ago, when she agreed to replace that second man in his job assisting the veterans who visit IowaWORKS. She wanted to make a difference.
“I was informed of this job opportunity, and I jumped on it,” May said. “Just to be able to help veterans.”
May is one of 20 people in IowaWORKS offices around the state who work directly with veterans to help them find meaningful careers. Some, like May, are part of the Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) and work to find training, housing, or other needed assistance for veterans who face significant obstacles in landing steady employment.
Other career planners, such as those assigned to Home Base Iowa, focus more on helping with job interviews and teaching veterans how to explain military work experience on a civilian resume.
IowaWORKS staffers work together at both levels to get veterans whatever they need to find success.
“A lot of it is just translating,” May said. “A lot of the younger soldiers don’t realize the skills that they’ve obtained through the military, such as leadership or management. They don’t even realize why that would be valuable to someone.”
Heather Deters, an HBI Career Planner based in Davenport, said many Iowa veterans are reluctant to admit it when they’re having trouble finding a job.
“The biggest challenge for veterans is just asking for help,” said Deters, who retired last year after 25 years in U.S. Army personnel offices. “We’ve been trained to do it ourselves no matter what they problem is.”
A large majority of the caseload for Home Base Iowa career planners involves Iowa veterans who are trying to change jobs within the state. For those leaving military service and looking for a new career, Deters works with them to assess their interests and decide what they’d like to explore.
“It’s mentoring,” she said. “We’ve been there, and we can relate. We can use that language with a veteran and their spouse.”
May works with roughly 50 different veterans at any given time, usually touching base with each once every two weeks. She also maintains close contacts with a wide range of social service agencies in Sioux City and uses those connections to help individual veterans find any assistance they might need.
“Success is when all their needs are met, and they find that employment that is going to be financially secure and stable for a career,” she said. “If I can’t help them, I know who can.”
For more information on employment services for Veterans, visit this page at Iowa Workforce Development.