Des Plaines Chamber's Back-To-Work Boot Camp returns for a third year
Forty veterans from around the Chicago area are successfully pursuing civilian careers, thanks to their participation in an innovative back-to-work boot camp program initiated by the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry in 2017.
Sponsored by Rivers Casino, The Home Depot, AMITA Health, Wintrust, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2992, American Legion Post 36 and others, the chamber's Back-To-Work Boot Camp provides veterans with individual mentoring, career exploration, computer and social media skills, resume writing, interviewing readiness, company tours and more.
Participants have been hired by the Des Plaines Police Department, LSG Sky Chefs, Jewel-Osco, Mariano's, Search Inc., Edward Jones, the Elk Grove Fire Department, Daily Herald Media Group, American Eagle, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and others.
"The Des Plaines Boot Camp really stressed confidence," said Evan Franck, a Marine Corps veteran who participated in the program in 2017 and was hired by the Des Plaines Police Department. "Having mentors reinforcing that my skills are very useful in the civilian sector and having the classes on interviewing skills and resume building helped tremendously."
"When I returned home, I got stuck in the veteran mentality," he added "I felt like it was 'me' versus 'them.' Thanks to the Boot Camp, I realized that I needed to adapt back into civilian life. I didn't need everyone else to adapt to me. Once I broke through that, I was able to grow."
The chamber recently kicked off the third year of the successful program as more than 175 community members gathered at Rivers Casino to hear program details and show gratitude for veterans and sponsors. Funding and contributions of $152,000 from a variety of sources was announced, including a record grant of $89,000 from Rivers.
"We know these veterans acquired many skills during their service, but far too many have difficulty connecting to the right opportunity that matches their skill set," said Andrea Biwer, the chamber's executive director.
"The idea for this program began more than two years ago as we listened to concerns from the business community about their challenges in finding the right employees to fill open positions," Biwer told those gathered for the kickoff event. "At the same time, we kept hearing about the number of fabulous men and women who were having a hard time finding the right job after returning from active military service. These veterans were wrestling with how to take the necessary steps toward a meaningful career. It didn't take long to connect the dots."
Upon completion of the 10-week program, each veteran has not only a better chance of civilian employment, but also receives a career enhancement package valued at $8,000. It includes a laptop computer, $400 Woodfield gift card for career attire, $400 Home Depot gift card, personalized resume package, 1-year car maintenance package, car detail package, Kray Maga fitness package, ongoing career mentorship and counseling from the business community.
"We are so thrilled with the success of this program that we are hoping to share the process with communities across the country so that they, too, can assist both military veterans needing career options and businesses needing quality employees," Biwer said.
Anyone interested in applying for this year's program, which begins in the fall, go to dpchamber.com and click on the Veteran tab. For more information, contact Biwer at (847) 824-4200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.