FORT POLK, La. -- With every new duty station, comes the stress for military-connected individuals, especially military spouses, of finding employment. The Employment Readiness Program, offered through Army Community Service at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is available to help make the job hunt easier.
"As a military spouse myself, I understand the struggle of having to move from place to place and having to find a job to bring in that extra paycheck," said Stacey Delgado, ERP manager. "Our goal is that they secure employment."
The program is open to all military identification card holders and Department of Defense civilians and their family members. Services offered include access to a job bank of local employment opportunities, resume and job application assistance, career counseling and guidance, Fort Polk Thrift Boutique vouchers for professional attire and more.
ERP also hosts career workshops on a variety of topics, including resume writing and 10 Steps to a Federal Job.
"Our biggest thing that we do is we help with the federal job application process," Delgado said.
Delgado said ERP guides clients through the USAJobs application process and the Priority Placement Program, as well as assists them in gathering all documents needed for the federal job application and writing federal job resumes.
A Military Spouse Employment Partnership is in place with more than 350 partners -- including AT&T, Lowe's, Walmart and Navy Federal -- to get military spouses employed at these companies. Delgado works with these companies locally, as well as other businesses in the surrounding area to get ERP clients connected to jobs.
"We try to work with those site managers or hiring officials in those MSEP partners, and we build relationships with them," Delgado said. "So as we identify a military spouse or any of our clients that could work in one of those areas, we could just reach out to these companies to refer them for the job."
"Because I have been in my job and lived in the Fort Polk area for a very long time, I've made relationships with employers off post that I can call and say, 'I have a military spouse that needs a job today.' And I can get them usually employed somewhere while they get some extra skill building or identify some other areas in which we can get them a better paying job," she added.
Delgado said a prominent component of ERP is advocacy.
"I understand the military lifestyle. I understand the uniqueness of what happens when you move constantly," Delgado said. "I can work with these clients and be able to provide them an understanding and more empathy."
She said that there are many skills that make military spouses great employees -- both in government and civilian jobs.
"Military spouses are able to multitask. We're used to things changing at the drop of a hat, so we're a little more flexible and easier to adapt," Delgado said. "Because of being in the military and seeing the way that our sponsors work, we provide a different type of work ethic. An employer may have a military spouse for maybe two to three years, and in that time frame the energy and all of the skills they bring with them can change an employer's whole business."
On the government side, Delgado said employing military spouses is beneficial because of the sense of familiarity they have with its services.
"Many of the spouses that may work for ACS understand what it does because they have used our services. They go to the hospital, so they understand how that process works. If they go to work for Child and Youth Services, they understand the daycare system because they've used it," Delgado said. "It's a very comfortable feeling, so it's not hard for them to pick up all the little intricacies of working for the federal government because they already have an idea of what it entails."
According to Delgado, the key to finding employment is clients actually coming in actively to receive ERP services.
"The face-to-face interaction between me and our customers is so important, and we can help them with a variety of different things that may be causing barriers for them," she said. "We do have jobs here at Fort Polk. I just looked from April until now, I've posted 633 jobs on our Facebook job bank. That's a lot of jobs, and I see on a constant basis how people say there is no work here, but there is. They don't know that because they don't come see us."
Through these in-person interactions, Delgado said they are also able to link clients to additional ACS services they may need, including household goods assistance and the Financial Readiness Program.
Delgado's hope for ERP is that it continues to grow, and that more employers will contact her when they are in need of employees.
"All in all, we are working very well with what we do here and continue to do things that are outside of the box," Delgado said. "I would really like for employers to be contacting me, so I can help them secure good employees. If I know that you have a need for employees, it's easy for me to find those employees because with our sit-down discussions, I find out about their qualifications and what they can bring to the table."