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Working against Bremerton’s veteran unemployment

Bremerton Goodwill is the next contender to try their hand at a growing veteran unemployment problem. Their strategy, build the whole person rather than just teach job skills.

“Our approach is very holistic,” said Amy Olson, site manager for the Bremerton branch’s Job Training and Education.

Kitsap County has the second highest rate of veteran unemployment in the state, according to Elizabeth Scott, regional labor economist.

“We’ve got a substantial military population in this county, we should be able to create an employment base that can benefit from that,” said Fred Scheffler, former chairman of the Veterans Advisory Board.

However, Reginald Deriso, an Airforce veteran who is now employed by Goodwill as an instructor in their training course, knows that veterans have more to overcome than just learning to use a computer or writing a resume.

Sometimes the barrier is about a lifestyle change.

“Most vets have only known the military life as adults; some came in right out of high school and never had a job before getting a steady paycheck from the military,” said Deriso.

Deriso teaches Cashiering, Microsoft Word, and Internet Job Search courses at the Bremerton center, based on his own experiences of learning to work retail in the civilian sector.

This is Deriso’s first steady job after twenty-four years in the Airforce.

According to the instructor, fellow veterans most often ask for his help in translating their military experience to actual job skills.

The Bremerton location has completed one training cycle to date.

During the first session, all the classes were filled and the most sought after class was Internet Job Search followed by Cashiering.

“Retail work in Kitsap is certainly an opportunity,” said Scheffler, who served for decades developing shopping centers around the country for Nordstrom, “But the only way to have retail jobs is to have people with money to spend which is not the case now.”

Scheffler said that Goodwill graduates might be frustrated when they leave with brand new skills in retail and still can’t find work.

“I give Goodwill all the credit in the world, but o.k. I’m trained now, where’s my job?” said Scheffler.

According to Olson, Bremerton Goodwill cannot guarantee graduates jobs when they leave. However, a large number of graduates do receive offers from Goodwill branch locations.

Goodwill’s eight Seattle centers have found jobs for 400 students since 2010.

The training program also provides interview clothes, bus tokens, gas cards, and a $500 stipend to every student with good attendance to help pay for anything else hindering employment.

 

Bremerton job skills classes will run from Jan. 3-Feb. 23. Silverdale retail and customer service classes are Jan. 3-March 1.

For more information, call the Bremerton Goodwill Store at 360-373-3692.

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