VETERANS BACK-TO-WORK BOOT CAMP RETURNS FOR 4th YEAR
Over 60 veterans from around the Chicago area are successfully pursuing civilian careers, largely thanks to their participation in an innovative back-to-work boot camp program, initiated by the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry in 2017 and sponsored by Rivers Casino, and local businesses from across the region.
“The Des Plaines Boot Camp really stressed confidence,” stated Evan Franck, a Marine Corps veteran who participated in the program in 2017 and was subsequently hired by the Des Plaines Police Department. “Having mentors reinforcing that my skills are very useful in the civilian sector and having the classes on interviewing skills and resume building helped tremendously.”
“When I returned home, I got stuck in the Veteran mentality,” he continued. “I felt like it was ‘me’ versus ‘them’. Thanks to the Boot Camp, I realized that I needed to adapt back into civilian life. I didn’t need everyone else to adapt to me. Once I broke through that, I was able to grow.”
Now that he is a police officer, Franck said that “every day is different. Some days are really challenging. You show up to help someone on sometimes the worst day of their life. You are there to help them and solve the situation and that is the most rewarding part of this job.”
“Knowing that the community that helped me is now on the receiving end of me helping them is great. It has come full circle,” he added.
WHAT IS THE BOOT CAMP?
The annual Des Plaines Chamber’s Back-To-Work Boot Camp is designed to provide Veterans with individual mentoring from other Veteran business leaders, personal and career exploration, LinkedIn and social media help, resume writing, interviewing readiness, company, financial advice and more. So, once they complete the program, they are prime employment candidates for a wide range of local employers.
In fact, participants have been hired by not only the Des Plaines Police Department, but also by LSG Sky Chefs, Des Plaines Police Department, Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s, Search Inc., Edward Jones, the Elk Grove Fire Department, Daily Herald Media Group, American Eagle, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and others.
“We are so grateful for the men and women of the armed forces,” said Andrea Biwer, Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “We know these veterans acquired many skills during their service, but far too many have difficulty connecting to the right opportunity that matches their skill set.”
“The idea for this program began more than two years ago as we listened to concerns from the business community about their challenges in finding the right employees to fill open positions,” Biwer told the crowd. “At the same time, we kept hearing about the number of fabulous men and women who were having a hard time finding the right job after returning from active military service. These veterans were wrestling with how to take the necessary steps toward a meaningful career. It didn’t take long to connect the dots.”
“Our nation's Veterans and their families have sacrificed so much to preserve our nation's freedoms. We have made it a priority to partner with organizations to ensure the success of Chicagoland's Veterans. Through organizations such as the Des Plaines Back-to-Work Boot Camp and the American Legion, Rivers Casino is proud to see our local Veterans succeed,” stated Corey Wise, River’s Casino’s Senior Vice President & General Manager.
“With the help of our local business community, we were able to launch the Back to Work Boot Camp, followed by our Veterans Career Fair. Over the past few years we have had over 200 Veteran applicants to the program,” she continued. “We chose 59 veterans who participated and graduated. In addition, we have had over 100 employers at our two Veteran Career Fairs, looking to hire the 250 Veterans who attended.”
EACH GRADUATING VETERAN WILL RECEIVE:
Upon completion of the 10-week program, each Veteran has not only a better chance of civilian employment, but also receives a career enhancement package valued at $8,000 that includes a Personal Laptop Computer with Microsoft Office Package, $500 Woodfield Gift Card, 1 Year Membership to Planet Fitness, Personalized Resume Package, 1-year Car Maintenance Package, Ongoing Career Mentorship and Counseling from the business community and more.
“We are so thrilled with the success of this program that we are hoping to share the process with communities across the country so that they, too, can assist both military veterans needing career options and businesses needing quality employees,” Biwer stated.