New program in Colorado Springs designed to help get troops into civilian careers
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Paralympic athlete John Register talks with Fort Carson troops about transitioning to a civilian career. Register lost a leg to amputation and rebuilt his life around athletics, earning six medals in Paralympic competition. (Courtesy Photo)

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A nationwide initiative to help transitioning military find civilian jobs has set up shop in Colorado Springs.

The Onward to Opportunity in Partnership with the Veterans Career Transition Program arrived at Fort Carson in June. The program provides in-class and online certificate training, resume building, and professional networking for any post-9/11 veteran, transitioning service members, spouses, reservists and guardsmen.

The kicker - it is free.

"None of the training or certificate exams come at any cost to the participants," said Joe Aldaz, the program's manager at Fort Carson.

That allows veterans to prepare for civilian work without being forced to use their G.I Bill for school right out of the military.

"Our goal is that they gain meaningful employment," Aldaz said. "So that they are making a living versus having to live paycheck to paycheck."

And the program has delivered on that goal. Since starting at Fort Carson in June, it has helped 300 individuals, with 80 percent of graduates finding employment.

"You can't place a value on that," smiled Aldaz.

The program is broken into three parts.

It begins with an assessment to help soldiers pick a civilian career.

After they have selected their path, participants begin certificate training.

Onward to Opportunity provides training in project management, human resources and customer service. Training consists of four days in a classroom and up to 10 weeks of online coursework.

Finally, service members and their families are introduced to professionals in their chosen field.

"We don't just provide the training, we provide the connections with the community," said Aldaz.

Aldaz continued to explain that Onward to Opportunity provides its participants confidence as they transition. "Employee engagement and networking helps gain that confidence," he said.

Aldaz said the program supports troops and helps the community at the same time. "We are providing a highly trained individual that can be of great value to the Colorado Springs community," he said.

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