Des Plaines Chamber Gives Thanks to Veterans and Military Spouses with Back-to-Work Boot Camp
2023 Employment Program to Provide Free Training, Mentoring, and Laptop to 20 Applicants
On Thursday, May 25, the 2023 Des Plaines Chamber Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp officiallykicked off its application process. The date is significant because it was selectedin respect to Memorial Day Weekend, which itself honors the members ofAmerica’s military services who lost their lives defending our country.
Recognizing that former military service people and spouses of active-duty military membersthat have been stationed in the Chicagoland area can have difficulty findingthe right opportunity to transition into civilian work, the Veterans Boot Camp provides in-depth training, mentorship, networking opportunities, and jobseeking tools including a personal laptop to qualified job seekers. All of thisis free of charge to those selected for the program.
Since being founded in 2017 by chamber executive director Andrea Biwer, over the past six years the Boot Camp has helped over 150 veterans secure new careers outside ofthe military.
“The Boot Camp gave me priceless networking opportunities and the chance to meet companies that have a desire to hire veterans,” notes Laura Johnstone, who waspart of those selected for the very first Veterans Boot Camp in 2017. Thanks to the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry Foundation’s program, theproud Air Force veteran has gone on to a successful management career in thegrocery industry.
This year, the program will select 15 veterans and 5 spouses of active-duty service people and provide them with the tools they need to not only succeed, but to truly thrive in the workforce. The inclusion of spouses of active military personnel stationedin the area is a new addition to this year’s program and will add to thewonderful group dynamic of people looking to take the steps necessary to changetheir lives.
“This year's program will broaden our reach to include spouses of Veterans as well,”explains Marne Deithorn, vice president of human resources at Rivers Casino –one of the key business partners sponsoring the program with the Chamber. “The spouses of Veterans hold so much responsibility in military families. Expanding our program to include these men and women shows how much we valuetheir contributions as well.”
Applicationsfor the 2023 Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp and additional information on theprogram and culminating career fair are available on the Des Plaines Chamber ofCommerce & Industry interactive website at www.dpchamber.com.
“Each year the Des Plaines business community and the chamber of commerce come togetherwith a focus on giving back to those who have served our country,” says Biwer.“The Veterans Boot Camp is a testament to both the compassion and the intelligence of our area business. Military-trained professionals make some ofthe best long-term employees.”
The 2023 Veterans Boot Camp is brought to you by the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Rivers Casino, with additional support from American LegionPost 36, Harper College, Oakton College, Daily Herald Media Group, Journal & Topics Media Group, Planet Fitness, and Home Depot. New sponsors addingtheir support this year are The Foxtail on the Lake Restaurant / Jessica and Timothy Canning Charitable Fund.
“Our militarymen and women have sacrificed so much. It's our responsibility to assistthem with a successful transition to fulfilling civilian careers which showcase their talents and contributions," adds Deithorn. “I am honored torepresent Rivers Casino and its partnership with the Des Plaines Chamberof Commerce. As a mentor in the program and a Veteran myself, I'm soproud of what all our graduates have gone on to accomplish.”
Each participant selected to participate in the program will receive:
· Personalized resume and interview training package
· Professional and personal development training
· Career coaching and mentoring
· The opportunity to attend exclusive networking events
· The opportunity to participate in a community service project that showcases theirjob skills.
Those who complete the Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp and graduate in November will alsoreceive:
· A high-end personal laptop, complete with Microsoft Office package
· Gift Card’s to help them begin their Career path -
· Additional products and services from the program’s sponsors
The entire package is valued at over $10,000!
Although the program is brought to you by the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Foundation and the training takes place in that area, applicants don’t need to be Des Plaines residents as long as they can get there for the training sessions and events.
“We are committed to inclusivity and helping everyone we can,” says Biwer. “The Veterans Back-to-Work Boot Camp is open to all former service people and the spouses of those on active duty in the area.”
Following the 10-week training program, a career fair will be held at the Des Plaines Public Library. The event is open to all job seekers, however there will be a private pre-fair reception for all veterans and their families one hour before the showopens to the public. These special job fairs have historically led toemployment for an impressive number of job applicants.
“Veterans make great employees because they are so well trained and well disciplined,”concludes Biwer. “Veterans traditionally have a determination to get the job done no matter what the obstacles. That’s a mentality that goes a long way incivilian life.”
The application deadline is July 10, 2023.
Boot Camp graduates join a network of almost 150 Chicago-area veterans who are successfully pursuing civilian careers as well as community leadership, thanks to their participation in the innovative and life-changing Veterans Boot Camp. As Charles Benford, one of the 2020 participants noted, “A team of professionals is there to help me find a career path and have helped me design a road map to get there. The program is helping me bring it all together: the vocational, emotional, physical, financial, intellectual, and social.”
Laura Johnstone, an Airforce veteran and 2017 Veterans Boot Camp graduate, credits Veterans Boot Camp with setting her on the path to a management career in the grocery industry. Now a manager at Jewel-Osco, she reports that “the Boot Camp gave me priceless networking opportunities and the chance to meet with companies that have the desire to hire veterans.”
Nick Czerniak, a Marine Corps veteran who is now a firefighter and paramedic, was inspired to make strides in life: “During the Boot Camp, I was surrounded by people with drive who motivated me."
Maggie Bennett is an Army veteran who benefited from the Veterans Boot Camp. “The Boot Camp taught me how to network, use LinkedIn and navigate social media to my advantage. It helped me get two jobs. And the best thing it taught me was confidence in myself and my abilities.”
Some Boot Camp graduates return to the program as mentors. After serving in the Navy from 2012-2017, Colin Kipping-Ruane returned home and joined the Veteran’s Boot Camp, where he found his career direction. Now a project manager for American Eagle, Colin enjoys being a Boot Camp mentor. “I wanted to give back and help those that were in similar positions as myself. I have always lived by the mantra 'service before self' and I wanted to do what I could do to help those in need.”
The Boot Camp format in 2023 will be back to meeting in person and will take place on Wednesday's beginning September 6 and run through November 1 with Graduation on November 8th. Veterans will have the opportunity to attend Des Plaines Chamber’s networking events like the annual golf outing and in person networking breakfasts, Young Professional Network meetings to practice their elevator pitches and networking skills.
They will also participate in a community service project that benefits a local Veteran's cause with the help of The Home Depot and this year we will be helping MARYVILLE with a fun project! .
Thanks to support from Planet Fitness, program participants and their families will get to enjoy free live-streamed team building workouts on Sunday nights, as well, so they can focus on their mind, body and soul.
The business community is a strong supporter of the Veterans Boot Camp. “Our program is flourishing because of the Veteran mentorship, speakers, and financial support of the business community,” said Biwer. “We are grateful to Rivers Casino, our presenting sponsor, and additional sponsors including The Home Depot, , Planet Fitness, American Legion Post 36, Oakton College, Harper Community College and more.”
“It has been an honor to partner with the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce to support the Boot Camp from the beginning,” said Deithorn of Rivers Casino. “These veterans made selfless sacrifices during their enlistments to ensure our nation's freedoms. Rivers Casino is proud to support the program's goal of assisting military veterans with the transition to successful and fulfilling civilian careers.”
Program participants have been hired in diverse fields; recent employers include Accenture, Des Plaines Police Department, LSG Sky Chefs, Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s, Search Inc., Edward Jones, Lincolnshire- Riverwoods Fire Protection district, Daily Herald Media Group, American Eagle, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Rivers Casino and many others.
“We are so grateful for the men and women of the armed forces,” said Biwer. “Veterans Boot Camp is an important way to support the people who put their lives on the line for our country.”