BY QUINISHA JACKSON-WRIGHT | NOVEMBER 12,2018
The 2017 Santa Barbara County Veterans Assessment Report found that veterans struggle with underemployment in the civilian job sector. While possessing a diverse skill set, many are not matched with jobs that maximize their qualifications and experience. This is where programs like Goodwill Operation: GoodJobs (OGJ) 3.0 step in to fill the gap. As part of this month’s Neighborhood Series we spoke with Ingrid Monzon, the Santa Barbara County Workforce Services Programs Manager, to learn more about its impact on the veteran community.
OGJ began through a pilot run in 2014 after receiving a grant from the Walmart Foundation (1 of 10 Goodwill organizations in the nation to receive funding for its veteran employment services). Due to its success, funds were granted again in 2017. Since then, 400 veterans have enrolled in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Lompoc, with 170 veterans placed in jobs. All participants work with Veteran Services Coordinators, who provide resources including a skills assessment, resume writing, and job search strategies, free of charge. Veterans may also receive training in several areas, including computers and customer service. Upon placement in a job that fits the veteran’s background, retention services are also offered, which consist of staff check-ins with the veteran for up to a year after employment is obtained.
“We want to make sure veterans are not only getting jobs, but retaining them,” Monzon said. “To accomplish this, we check in with each veteran [placed in a job] every three months for the first year of employment.”
While many veteran job placement services are limited to those who have recently been discharged from active-duty, Monzon explains that all veterans are welcome to utilize the resources available through Goodwill.
“Any veteran can participate, recently separated or otherwise,” she said. “Dependents are eligible as well, as long as they live in the same household and can provide a copy of the service member’s DD214.”
Monzon says OGJ wants to reach and support as many veterans in Santa Barbara County as possible. Part of this comes through building and maintaining partnerships with other local organizations that assist veterans, including New Beginnings, Good Samaritan Shelter and the Veterans Success Center at Allan Hancock College. OGJ also seeks to increase support for women veterans in the community. 14% of enrolled participants are women, and Monzon explains the goal is to increase that number to at least 20% before 2020.
The hope is to yield more women veteran success stories, such as that of Navy veteran Lisette Weatherby. Weatherby utilized services through OGJ on two separate occasions: the first time as a college student after completing active duty, and again several years later during an unexpected stint of unemployment. During her second time in OGJ, Weatherby was invited to an interview for a Veterans Counselor position at Goodwill. A few days later, she received a phone call with the official job offer.
Weatherby is grateful to be part of the Goodwill team and provide the same resources to other veterans that she has received. In hiring local veterans like Weatherby, the organization prioritizes contributing to gainful employment for those who have served.
The program will receive grant funding through 2020, with plans to coordinate community fundraising to support its employment services to veterans for the longer term.
For more information on resources through OGJ, please contact the team at 805-736-6700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.