By Elaine Cooluris, Executive Director at Able-Disabled Advocacy

Note: This post is part of a weeklong celebration of U.S. military veterans. You can find more stories and resources at the Microsoft Citizenship website.

“I am extremely grateful for the assistance Able-Disabled Advocacy gave me,” Matthew B., a former US Army Combat Engineer related. “I felt like I was on the verge of living in my car, but now I'm at a new firm with great people, excellent benefits and exceptional compensation. I've regained my confidence and hope for the future.”

Matthew was unable to find work as a paralegal in San Diego, CA due to a requirement that all paralegals in the state of California must be licensed through an approved college level program. After enrolling in one of Able-Disabled Advocacy’s (A-DA) Veteran programs, he was eligible for a tuition payment to attend an accelerated paralegal program at the University of California, San Diego. While in training, Matthew was able to continue receiving his unemployment benefits and earn his California Paralegal Certificate in 12 weeks.

A-DA also helped Matthew improve his employability skills through comprehensive career assessment and counseling. He now works for Rutan & Tucker, LLP in Costa Mesa, CA earning $70,000 a year. He continues to keep in touch with A-DA’s Veteran Services staff.

With the turn of the 21st Century and the emerging need for Information Technology skills in the workplace, our vision for the Microsoft Elevate America Veteran’s Program named VetWORKS is to bridge the Digital Divide between Veteran job seekers and employers. We are working to accomplish this goal by creating partnerships to enhance and expand gainful employment opportunities through improved access to advanced education, training and technology certifications.

To better upgrade transferable military and other skills in the classroom, VetWORKS services will include:

  1. Open entry/open exit classes, distance learning, tutoring and supervised learning labs
  2. Assistive Technology
  3. Activities that are proficiency based and designed to be conducted concurrently to lessen boredom, improve retention and further engage program participation at every step
  4. Extensive Labor Market Information
  5. Entrepreneurial Training
  6. Work Readiness Training
  7. A comprehensive array of “wrap around” services to ensure job retention. Most important, the technology training and certifications achieved will be “portable” and recognized by IT professionals nationwide should the Veteran and/or spouse re-locate.

The desired impact of our VetWORKS program is to provide customized services and training that enhance the job skills learned in the military, as well as assist Veterans/spouses to develop new skills for jobs in high growth/high wage technology related occupations.

Elaine Cooluris, Executive Director at Able-Disabled Advocacy

 

Founded in 1975 in San Diego, CA as a 501 (c)(3) corporation, A-DA’s mission is to “provide vocational skills training and educational advancement for youth, adults and Veterans with disabilities or other employability challenges and to assist them in finding employment and overcoming barriers to personal and financial self-sufficiency.”

The organization serves more than 600 individuals each year at our four training sites and since inception, we have placed almost 12,000 individuals with and without disabilities into San Diego’s workforce. Of those that have been placed and retained, approximately 3,600 (30%) have been Veterans. For more information on A-DA’s Veteran programs, please contact Denise Yoggerst at (619) 231-5990, ext. 307 or denise@able2work.org.

 

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