CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — As Texans prepare to honor those who’ve served this Veterans Day, educational and job training programs through Goodwill Central Texas aim to help those existing the armed services transition to civilian life.
GCT operates a veterans program that serves hundreds of people in the Central Texas region. Jason Stewart, GCT’s vice president of commercial services, oversees the program and said he leans on his personal military experience to help inform its services.
Stewart served 20 years in the United States Army before transitioning to Goodwill. That pivot to civilian life — and the need to develop new trades and soft skills — is something he’s factored into his training approach.
“I empower them with the ability to do their job knowing that it’s OK to make mistakes. We don’t look at it as a failure, we just look at it as a learning opportunity,” he said. “With the population we deal with, there’s a lot of soft skills issues, a lot of hands-on treatment, which I think very coincides with what I did in the military as well.”
While Veterans Day helps highlight and honor the contributions service members have made, Stewart said it’s important support for these vets continues beyond November. Donations made to GCT help fund the nonprofit’s technical academies and various programs for veterans and those with disabilities.
GCT’s veterans program includes skilled trade program training, resume writing classes and soft skills training. GCT also helps veterans with case management resources, housing and grant money services as they readjust to life beyond the armed services.
From there, Stewart said he hopes veterans can find the support services they need while also working with others who come from similar lived experience.
“They can focus on work and everything outside of work, we have people that we can help them with,” he said. “But the most important thing is they’re here, and they feel like they’re contributing as a team.”
Many of those who enlist in the military aren’t earning high wages, Stewart said, adding the reality is many veterans and active duty armed service members have struggled to make ends meet. He said by focusing on skilled trade professions, his hope is that veterans can earn a lucrative, higher-wage job to give them some financial stability.
“Anything we can do to help sharpen their resume and make their skillset stronger, so they can either grow within the organization or grow outside the organization,” Stewart said. “Both of those would be considered a win in my eyes.”