Investing in Bright Employment Futures for Veterans and Their Families

By Goodwill Industries International Director of Mission Services, Joylin Kirk, and Vested in Veterans Program Manager, Ruth Ifill

At Goodwill®, we know that today’s returning veterans have the dedication and leadership skills an employer would love to have in an employee. More than a million military servicemen and women are expected to leave behind their uniforms and return to civilian life in the next five years, and a stubbornly bleak job market translates to high unemployment for veterans. In addition, veterans and their families are frequently relocated, making it difficult for them to build credentials and careers. These challenges are intensified when veterans have service-related physical disabilities or post-traumatic stress disorder.

To help our veterans and their families overcome these obstacles, we’re partnering with the Bank of America® Charitable Foundation on the Vested in Veterans program in four markets in the United States that have a high veteran population: Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and San Antonio.   Our goal is to connect these veterans with support to gain civilian employment. Through the development of an individual career and financial plan, veterans and their families will work to build their skills and make the workforce connections they need to succeed.

Goodwill has implemented the formula of career planning, skills attainment, and job placement for veterans and their families since World War II. The following success stories illustrate how that model continues to be successful today:

  • Veteran Steve Harris connected with Tacoma Goodwill Industries (WA) to gain assistance with his transition from military to civilian employment. He was able to attend a manufacturing academy hosted by the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee and Bates Technical College. The Tacoma Goodwill supported Harris through his class by providing financial assistance and other soft skills, such as résumé writing workshops and mock interviews.  As a result of Tacoma Goodwill’s partnerships and Harris’ hard work, he was able to complete the course and find employment as a machinist.
  • Jose Ortiz, a 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran, came to Goodwill Southern California’s Metro North WorkSource Center interested in the security sector training program. He enrolled and was provided with intensive case management services and career preparation. After completing 88 hours of training that covered the State of California requirements for Security Officer Certification and attending recruitment events, he applied and was interviewed by Universal Protection Services. Based on the leadership skills displayed in his military service, he was offered a full-time union supervisor position starting at $12.50 an hour, plus benefits.


In our first year of Vested in Veterans, Goodwill will connect veterans and their families with career assessment and navigation; training and resources; financial fitness skills to support achievement of long-term goals; inroads to employment opportunities; and support services for career advancement. Goodwill looks forward to expanding the Vested in Veterans initiative in the future and guiding greater numbers of veterans and military families to their next careers.

In Houston, Goodwill® Builds Bridges between Veterans and Employers

In many communities, Goodwill® agencies serve as an essential bridge between veterans seeking careers and employers seeking to engage the talent pool of veterans who will provide value added to their bottom line. Throughout the enterprise, strategic community partnership meetings are taking place to leverage best practices and lessons learned, and streamline the deployment to employment process for veterans and military families.

In late February, Goodwill convened 25 employers and veteran service organizations in Houston to attend a community partnership meeting. The meeting focused on implementing effective transitional support for veterans and military families, focusing on the employment challenges veterans face and how to educate civilian employers about the value they bring to the workforce.

Goodwill Industries of Houston kicked off the meeting by sharing Goodwill’s mission and the dynamic services provided to thousands of veterans.  Attendees heard profound stories from three veterans who participated in Operation: GoodJobs, a program funded by the Walmart Foundation.

One veteran, Army Reservist and Afghanistan Veteran Angela Hall, looked directly into the crowd of representatives from various businesses as she expressed her desire to secure a career in logistics. She worked in the supply and logistics field while on active duty and was sure that, when given the opportunity to perform, she would exceed expectations. She felt her greatest challenge was translating her military experience into language more common to civilian employers. Angela also expressed hesitation in disclosing her current service in the Army Reserves for fear that hiring managers would be apprehensive to offer her a position with their firms.
Equipped with the insight from Angela’s and other veterans’ stories, employers split into working groups to review case scenarios of actual employment challenges of veterans currently served by Operation: GoodJobs. Each group was tasked with refining and improving the employment process at all stages from the time an individual separates from the military to the time they receive a civilian job offer.

Employers and organizations used their expertise to recommend services to aide in veterans’ civilian transition and provide job leads and employment avenues. When the collective reconvened, each group shared their recommendations and solutions. Employers and service organizations were able to gain a clearer understanding of the challenges unique to this population and the barriers they face as they seek to transition into career-sustaining opportunities.

Goodwill is committed to expanding our outreach efforts with community partners to optimally leverage resources and services for veterans and their families. Gainful employment and education promise to provide economic stability and bridge the social divide that exists between military and civilian communities — a key component during the drastic life change veterans and their families experience when separating from the military.