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Employment programs open for spouses

JBLM Employment Readiness Program

Kimberly Fallen, left, who works at JBLM Armed Forces Community Service, helps Danielle Hollinger fill out an application Monday. JBLM PAO photo

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If you’re new to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and are a military spouse, looking for a job on or around the installation might be a lot simpler than you think.

With the help of JBLM’s Civilian Personnel Advisory Center and the Employment Readiness Program, priority placement is possible and even probable for military spouses.

The Employment Readiness Program, which helps with education and resume creation and revision through workshops and one-on-one counseling can be a big help to military spouses.

“We do all the prep work,” said Kimberly Fallen, Employment Readiness Program manager for Armed Forces Community Service. “When someone is new to the base, they are like, ‘I need to find a job, but I don’t know where to look.’ We can help with that; we can help them find a job. When you are new, it’s kind of weird, but we get people excited about getting a job.”

That’s true for Youhung “Keira” Lee, who grew up in Seoul, South Korea.

She moved to JBLM in September 2015 with her husband, Capt. Colin Sexton, commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 555th Engineer Brigade, after a year at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Lee said she was a bit nervous looking for a job. She has administrative experience in Korea and earned a bachelor’s degree in English communications from Sahmyook University in Seoul,. Lee tried building her own resume and looking for jobs.

“I started applying, but didn’t hear back from anyone,” she said. “I needed help.”

Staff at the Employment Readiness Program came to her rescue. Denise Chappell, who previously worked with the program, helped Lee with interview preparation and putting together a resume that got noticed.

Lee also took a one-day class with another Employment Readiness Program staffer. Within a short time, she got a job with the Department of Corrections in Tumwater.

Lee did well enough in that job as an office assistant that, getting advice on everything from wardrobe to interviewing from staff at the ERP, she was promoted to a better job after 15 months.

“That (ERP) program is so good because you can do one-on-one, and they help you adjust your resume, write a cover letter or whatever you need,” Lee said. “You know that they actually care about you.”

Chappell said she remembers when Lee first came to the ERP looking for assistance.

“She was petrified, but now she’s living the dream,” Chappell said. “That’s what we want for all our clients. For them to be resilient and self-sufficient.”

JBLM’s Civilian Personnel Advisory Center also provides valuable services to military spouses.

“We try to get (clients) in federal programs,” Chappell said. “That way they are able to get and stay with a job if the other spouse retires.”

In the past year, the JBLM CPAC helped place 36 spouses in local jobs. A lot of other spouses have used their eligibility to apply for jobs, received consideration and also been hired, according to Amenia Robinson, human resources specialist with the JBLM CPAC.

“The program is very successful,” Robinson said of the Priority Placement Program — the referral program through which eligible, immediately appointable spouses receive preference for competitive service positions in the continental United States — and its subprogram, the Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Program, also referred to as “Program S.”

Program S provides statutory employment preference to military spouses who desire priority consideration for competitive service positions. By giving military spouses priority in the employment selection process, Program S works to reduce the impact of frequent relocations on spouse’s careers, Robinson said.

The Priority Placement Program is a great way to get a job quickly, according to Danielle Hollinger, a military spouse who got her job as an information and referral follow-up coordinator in Armed Forces Community Service within a few weeks of going through the PPP.

One year ago, she and her husband had just moved from Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Neb. She signed up for PPP immediately and was working two weeks later, she said. Spouses are eligible to submit their PPP paperwork up to 30 days before the service member’s report date for a permanent change of station move with authorization for relocating family members.

The job is a three-year position, so she’s currently looking for a permanent job.

“I know I will find something,” she said. “I’m looking for something within AFCS — the same type of job. My heart is to help and serve people, so this is a good place for me to work.”

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