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WorkSource Veterans Program Recognized

July 11, Kennewick, Washington -- Kelly Snell and Sam Rabideau are veterans helping veterans.

And their work at WorkSource Columbia Basin in Kennewick helping fellow veterans overcome barriers to obtaining a job and market themselves to employers has won them a nomination for the 2011 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.

The award, given by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, was created to acknowledge employers who go above and beyond in supporting employees who serve in the National Guard or Reserve.

That's exactly what Snell, the local veterans employment representative, and Rabideau, the disabled veteran outreach program representative, do -- go beyond their job description to help veterans, said Jacob Henriksen of West Richland, who worked with them as a work study student for a year.

Henriksen, 22, who has been in the National Guard for five years, nominated the WorkSource veterans program for the award. He was deployed to Iraq in 2008, where he helped escort convoys near Balad before returning in 2009.

After returning, Henriksen started attending Columbia Basin College in Pasco, working toward a physical therapy assistant degree, and then was hired as a work study student at WorkSource, to help in its veterans program for a year.

That's how Henriksen said he learned how much Snell, an Army veteran, and Rabideau, a Navy veteran, do to help others find jobs.

They help veterans translate what they did in the service to civilian life, Henriksen said. For example, his job title was human resource specialist, but he ended up being a gunner on a convoy escort.

Snell said veterans tend to focus on the one mission they completed, while forgetting all the other skills they exercised, from teamwork to inventory and personnel reports. So he helps them identify all the other skills they can list on their rsums.

"Those are the skills that make the veteran worth their weight in gold," he said.

Rabideau said he provides more one-on-one work with veterans with barriers to employment, from being homeless to having post-traumatic stress syndrome. That can mean helping find services, such as the Benton-Franklin Community Action Committee, to get housing help.

It isn't enough just to help a veteran find a job, Rabideau said. The two focus on helping veterans find a career they will be happy with.

The veterans program isn't new at WorkSource, said Candice Bluechel, business services manager. What's new is what Snell and Rabideau have been doing to improve the program.

About a year and half ago, Snell said he started holding workshops to target common errors he was seeing veterans make when seeking employment, from rsum writing to how to fill out the lengthy, complicated online application for a federal job. He and Rabideau now lead about seven classes, with assistance from employers, and rotate through the classes about once a month.

Snell said that when he started the classes, he had no idea they would be so successful in getting people back to work.

Now, those classes have been shared with other WorkSource offices in the state as a best practice, Bluechel said.

Henriksen, who stopped working at the office in February, said he was impressed with the team's daily average for helping veterans find employment.

On average, three veterans find jobs each day, Snell said, and that's only the veterans who call to report that they have found a job.

About 56 percent of the 1,235 veterans who received services from WorkSource Columbia Basin between August and September of 2010 found employment, according to the most recent data available from the U.S Department of Labor. During that same period, job retention of veterans who had received services was 82 percent, highest in the state.

Currently, the veterans program is working on a Veterans Benefits Fair and Stand Down scheduled at WorkSource Columbia Basin on Aug. 10, which brings together resources for veterans in one place.

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