JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
Military members, spouses, family members and caregivers in the San Antonio area looking for a career are fortunate to have the Joint Base San Antonio Workforce, Military Spouse and Transition Alliance available to ensure they find the education, training and opportunities needed to assist them in building a fulfilling career, whether they are leaving the military, changing duty stations, or beginning life after school.
“Our goal is to build and foster relationships between government, non-governmental agencies, Veteran and non-profit service organizations, and employers in order to provide opportunities for transitioning military members, spouses, dependents and caregivers at any stage,” said Serafina De Los Santos, 502nd Force Support Group executive director.
There are many facets to finding a career after military life, while married to a military member, caring for a wounded warrior or being a dependent who has moved numerous times during a parent’s military career. All of these things can make finding training and career opportunities difficult due to the lack of relationships created through networking.
“One of the positive things the alliance does is bring people together,” said Karen Rolirad, executive director of the Bexar County Military and Veteran Services Center at the Jan. 7, Transition Alliance meeting. “It really does give a venue for a lot of individuals that have like concerns; organizations, whether they be employers, employees, or non-profits; to be able to sit at the table and work together. San Antonio is a very large place, and there are a lot of people who want to help. The benefit of having such an alliance is, we can all be on the same page.”
Also looking for a place on that page are those seeking assistance.
Andera Alexander was in civil affairs in the U.S. Army for over 20 years. When he retired, he utilized several alliance programs to find a new career path. He utilized USO Pathfinder to expand his network, Onward to Opportunity to gain a new certification in a career he wanted to try, and Hiring Our Heroes to create a new resume. Then, the Department of Defense Skillbridge program help him obtain hands-on experience using his new certification in the new career field.
“I thought my military skills were going to be an easy sell,” he said. “It was not that easy. I had to explain what I did in the military in a different way. It takes a lot of confidence. It takes a lot of hard work and should not be taken for granted. There are a lot of programs at JBSA; there are a lot of people who have done it before. You have to get out and ask questions and you have to participate in these programs.”
Some Transition Alliance partners also have programs for military spouses, caregivers and dependents. One of these partners is Goodwill Industries, which runs a career placement program dedicated to all of these military-connected persons.
Since becoming an alliance partner two years ago, the Goodwill program has grown immensely, having placed 400 eligible participants in the program, said Liz Larsen, an Army spouse of 22 years, who represented Goodwill Industries at the January Transition Alliance meeting.
“We have helped participants with skills attainment and have funded certifications, licensing, or any educational goals that we could help with to help them find a career,” Larsen said. “I probably can’t emphasize enough the uniqueness of this collaboration and Transition Alliance on JBSA. There is nothing like it here in San Antonio.”
The opportunities offered by the JBSA Transition Alliance are not only for those already located in the Alamo Region. When Samuel Walker was preparing to retire after 22 years in the Marine Corps, he was stationed in California, but planned to retire in San Antonio. He asked his commander if he could participate in the career skills program at a different location than where he was stationed, and his request was approved.
Walker moved to San Antonio for three months for an opportunity in a corporate fellowship program.
“The programs are wonderful,” he said. “If not for the Hiring our Heroes and the career skills program, the only opportunity I had was to attend the transition assistance programs in California.”
Walker said that because of the Transition Alliance he was able to fill out applications and create networks that led to opportunities in San Antonio.
“Networking and relationships are how companies work, how they select individuals,” he said. “Through the corporate fellowship program, I had three months within an organization to do that, and the organization has a face to put with the name.”
Walker emphasized that participants really have to commit to the program that is right for them, and in San Antonio there are many to choose from, thanks to the Transition Alliance.
“Not just everyone gets an opportunity to complete a program,” Walker said, encouraging transitioning members to seek all available opportunities necessary for a smooth transition. “You don’t know if you are going to be accepted unless you ask, and you never know if you are going to be approved unless you submit your package.”
Employers and organizations interested in participating in the Transition Alliance at JBSA can call 210-221-2632 for more information. Service members, military spouses, dependents or caregivers can call 210-221-1672 to find out what opportunities are available for them.
(Editor’s note: The mention of non-federal organizations is simply informational and not intended to imply endorsement by the U.S. Government, the DOD, or the U.S. Air Force.)