Job-Seeking Veterans Find Workshops, Connections at Career Center

Jun 25, 2018

Ret. Air Force Colonel Anthony Willis struggled to find a job after retiring from the military. He eventually found help at the Missouri Career Center in Springfield.
Credit Jennifer Moore / KSMU

The Missouri Career Center is located at 2900 East Sunshine Street in Springfield, and it's open 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday-Friday. Veterans can call ahead to make an appointment, or simply walk in.

As Air Force Col. Anthony Willis prepared to retire from the military, he felt reasonably confident there was one thing he wouldn’t have too much trouble with:  finding a job in the civilian world. 

He had been a security policeman for five years, he said.

"And then for 22 and a half years, I was an intelligence officer,” Willis said.

He graduated from Chadwick High School here in the Ozarks, he said, before going to the Air Force Academy. But when he re-entered the civilian world and decided to move back home to the Ozarks, he was in for a surprise.

"I probably put 20 to 25 resumes in for different jobs within the city of Springfield. Everywhere from the City of Springfield to private companies. Everywhere from human resources support to CEO, COO-type jobs. And I didn't get a single phone call back. Not one," he said.

He felt confused and disheartened.

His experience included a wide range of skills, from leadership to management of mulit-million dollar funds to legislative affairs.

"I was a speechwriter for a little over a year. I've done security for priority assets. I've done law enforcement support and/or work," he said.

Sabrina Bonnette, a retired Navy chief, works with job-seeking veterans at the Missouri Career Center on E. Sunshine Street in Springfield.
Credit Jennifer Moore / KSMU

So he did some home remodeling. He sold insurance for a few months before quickly realizing he wasn’t a salesman. Then he came to the Missouri Career Center, where Sabrina Bonette, a retired Navy chief, works directly with military veterans searching for jobs.

She helps organize workshops specifically for veterans.

"First, I find out who they are and what they're wanting to do," she said.  "We go over the military skills translation."

She and her colleagues also educate local employers about hiring military veterans.

"A lot of civilians are like, 'Oh, you were in the Army, you shot a gun.'  No, in the Army and the Navy and the Air Force, they're like little cities, the commands. They have every little aspect of running a city, pretty much. So you have every job within that," Bonnette said.

Veterans can either make an appointment or walk in without one, Bonnette said.

"Or if they don't want to travel and they just want to see what we have to offer, [the website is] www.jobs.mo.gov.  The nicest thing is that there's a 24-hour hold now on jobs that get posted. Only a veteran can see that job for the first 24 hours. So they have that priority of service," Bonnette said.

Today, Ret. Col. Anthony Willis recruits for Multi-Craft Contractors, Inc., an industrial manufacturer.

Willis says veterans generally know where to find people like Sabrina Bonnette.  They go through the mandated transition assistance program that starts 180 days before leaving the service.

What they really need, he says, are employers who are willing and committed to understanding their specific backgrounds—and to give them a chance by hiring them.

And, Anthony Willis says, veterans already have those much-needed “soft skills” employers look for.

"How to communicate, how to show up at work on time, how to make sure that your job's done andto be responsible for the things you do.  All of those things, your typical veteran is going to come with already," Willis said.

Now, when he’s recruiting, he sends Sabrina Bonnette a note to specifically ask for job-seeking veterans who might be a good fit.   And he encourages other businesses in the Ozarks to do the same.

Tags: