New Program at Tacoma Goodwill Helps Veterans

Tacoma Goodwill recently started a new pilot program for veterans and members of their families meant to help them land employment upon the completion of their military service.

Operation: GoodJobs began this spring. Three Goodwill agencies in the nation received grants from the Walmart Foundation to start the pilot program. The others are in Houston and Austin, Texas.

Workforce Development Director Richard Corak said a number of Goodwill agencies responded to a request for proposals. He said Tacoma Goodwill’s application was the top ranked in the nation. The proximity of Joint Base Lewis/McChord and the large number of veterans in the area make Tacoma an ideal location for the program. Corak said Tacoma Goodwill has been serving veterans, but they have not been a large portion of the client base.

Mike Tassin was hired to run the program, with the job title of veterans career navigator. Tassin served in the U.S. Army for eight years, reaching the rank of sergeant. He was stationed in South Korea and also did a tour of duty in Iraq. He arrived in the port city of Basra in April 2003 shortly after the United States invasion and was there until March 2004.

He was stationed at Fort Lewis when he was discharged in 2008. Tassin was out of work for 10 months after his discharge. He did an internship and volunteer work, then got a job at Goodwill as a retention specialist in 2009.

He left to attend graduate school. He is now a licensed marriage and family therapist associate.

Tassin returned to Goodwill on April 1. The program is funded for 15 months to begin. He said if the program goes well, it is likely that Walmart Foundation will provide more funding to continue its operations.

Participants take what is called a World of Work Inventory. This career test helps narrow down what kind of jobs they are suited for. It takes between 45 and 90 minutes to complete. It will indicate whether someone is an abstract or concrete learner. It can help determine whether someone is best suited to working in a group or alone, in an office or outside. “This matches their learning styles with jobs,” Tassin said.

Tassin attends a weekly meeting on Joint Base Lewis McChord to meet with soldiers who are about to be discharged. He also gets the word out about the new program by posting flyers at Veterans Administration buildings and at service centers.

“I love helping people get back on their feet,” he remarked.

Corak said one thing he likes about Operation: GoodJobs is that each participant is treated as an individual. “This is not a one-size-fits-all program.” It offers classes on searching for a job and removing military jargon from resumes that some employers may not understand. Some people need assistance related to their family in their search for employment, such as daycare. Some might benefit from family counseling. Also offered is training in budgeting, tax preparation and personal financial management.

The program also offers counseling in purchasing a home, credit and debt management, asset building and foreclosure prevention.

Corak said some will undergo short-term job training, either at Goodwill or a junior college.

Corak said Tacoma Goodwill is expected to assist 200 people in 15 months. Half must be veterans, while the others can be family members. Of these, 140 are to be put into the workplace, holding jobs for at least three months.

For more information visit www.tacomagoodwill.org.

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