A local partnership between Heart of Florida United Way’s Mission United and JobPath is helping veterans transition to civilian life and find the right jobs.
Approximately 50,000 military veterans are currently living on U.S. streets, struggling to survive. Studies show veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder at twice the rate of non-veterans and an average of 20 veterans are lost to suicide every day. These statistics are sobering, but two entities with local ties are teaming up to help veterans better transition to civilian life and satisfying jobs.
“We read an article on Mission United, and we joined its employment committee right away because we both have the same mission,” said Jack Fanous, co-owner of JobPath, a cutting-edge training and recruitment portal designed to help returning veterans and their family members find jobs. “We approached them about putting our platform on their website to create a hyper-local job source tool.”
Fanous and his partner, Jay Chaudhari, who started JobPath in 2014, realized a good fit when they saw it. Mission United, launched in 2015, is a collaborative effort between non-profit, government agencies and corporate partners to focus on veterans; it is supported by the Heart of Florida United Way. The organization addresses the fragmented delivery system of services and programs for veterans and their families in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties by serving as the centralized point for these programs and services. Designed with similar goals, the JobPath portal gives veterans the ability to develop the capacity to work in any specific job through position-specific online training modules developed by participating companies. Users can also connect with mentors, from fellow veterans to business leaders, who can assist them as they work to find a career and improve their skills.
“This partnership is a great way to leverage the United Way brand to help veterans and fix the job-related issues they face upon returning to civilian life,” said Laura Whitfield, director of Mission United. “We have effective tools — case managers, partner agencies, etc. — but this portal, which can be accessed from anywhere, gives veterans and employers the ability to link up with the click of a button.”
Filling a Critical Need
In 2017, Mission United conducted a survey and focus group discussions to clarify what veterans believe are the most important issues to address, where the Central Florida community is doing well and what focus is missing. The top needs they identified were ranked as follows: 1) Employment; 2) Education; 3) Mental Health; 4) Housing.
Employment ranked first despite the oft-touted low unemployment rates. By partnering with JobPath and launching missionunitedjob.org, Mission United now offers a complete suite of employment tools for employers to post job openings, utilize a unique military skills translator and access to a national database to find qualified veteran candidates.
“Skill sets are labeled differently in the military, which is often a problem for veterans when it comes to their resumes,” explained Fanous. “Employers look at key words, and if these key words don’t match what they’re looking for, they dismiss the resume. A veteran may actually have matching skill sets, but the employer doesn’t recognize them as written on the resume.”
Chaudhari added that 7,500 translations were incorporated into the software so veterans can build their resumes using the right job skill terminology. “We want to get this software into every veteran’s hands,” he said. “With Mission United’s wide reach and resources, this technology can assist more veterans.”
Whitfield, a former marine, knows firsthand that transitioning back into civilian life can be difficult, not because the agencies and resources are not available, but because they are scattered and uncoordinated. “Coordinating care is critical,” she asserted. “JobPath has given us an electronic platform that gives veterans a jumpstart on the process; it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”