Home Base Iowa is focused on connecting transitioning service members and veterans with career opportunities in supportive communities within the state of Iowa. To better understand what such a program is and how it helps veterans, we spoke with Jason Kemp, who retired from the Air Force and now serves as the Program Manager for Home Base Iowa.
Q: Why should veterans go through a program like Home Base Iowa when transitioning? What makes a state-focused program stand out?
A: The Home Base Iowa (HBI) program is a unique collaboration with various state agencies, over 1,400 Iowa businesses, 40 plus communities, and over 20 higher educational institutions. If you are a veteran interested in a great career in safe and affordable communities with exceptional public schools, Iowa should be on the top of your list. When a veteran submits a resume on the website, all the HBI businesses looking to hire veterans can view that resume along with IowaWORKS veteran representatives and HBI community liaisons.
The program was established by the Governor, Terry Branstad, and General Tim Orr, the Adjunct General for the Iowa National Guard. Their vision was to create a program to help make Iowa one of the most veteran-friendly states in the nation. Iowa's unemployment remains around four percent and there is a significant skills gap in the workforce. Additionally Iowa has an aging workforce which makes the need for skilled labor very important. Transitioning service members and veterans can fill those positions. Where the HBI program makes a difference is in its ability to showcase and highlight all the opportunities and resources here in Iowa.
Q: What are some of the specific Iowa programs and how do they benefit veterans in ways that most veterans might not be aware of?
A: The program provides veteran resumes to Iowa employers that have positions they need to fill. The program also partners with IowaWORKS service centers who give veterans and their spouses priority of service for assisting with resume drafting, interviewing skills, and additional assistance with local job placement. Iowa has a long list of veteran benefits. Some of them include no state tax on military pensions, up to $7,500 one-time grant towards the purchase of a home, automatic in-state tuition for veterans and eligible spouse and children. Additionally, all of the 44 Home Base Iowa communities offer local incentives on top of the state incentives. Iowa also leads the nation in apprenticeship training and through HBI, we are actively recruiting for Post 9/11 GI Bill apprenticeship programs. These programs offer veterans full time employment, a wage stipend, and a monthly housing allowance. The average Post 9/11 GI Bill apprentice earns over $50,000 per year during the apprenticeship.
Q: What sort of state-specific education benefits might be available for veterans? When an institution partners with you, what exactly does that mean for us veterans?
A: Our Certified Higher Academic Military Partners (CHAMPs) have met requirements in three categories: on-campus veteran resources, military transitional considerations, and financial considerations. Some of the specific criteria in each category includes a full time veterans service coordinator or representative, a veterans support group, career placement, advanced/preferential registration, veteran-specific student orientation, deferred billing options for VA benefit payments, deferred billing for purchasing books and supplies, along with specific scholarships for transitioning service members and/or their dependents. The CHAMPs designation means these colleges and universities make veterans and their families a priority. Many of these colleges and universities also assist and advocate for veteran-specific educational issues and initiatives.
Q: Do you actually help veterans find jobs? Is this through resume guidance, job fairs, or what other methods?
A: Yes! Home Base Iowa makes every effort to connect the dots with hundreds of employers and provide every resource available to assist veterans in their search for employment in Iowa. The program acts as a liaison for veterans with good job skills and Iowa businesses looking to fill their positions. But that is just one of many ways we help veterans. When veterans transition out of the military there are so many options available. Home Base Iowa provides job opportunities, apprenticeship opportunities, continuing education opportunities, and all of this with the help of local resources which include Iowa Department of Veteran Affairs county veteran directors, IowaWORKS veteran representatives, assistance from Iowa National Guard offices and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves (ESGR) resources. Additionally, many of the Home Base Iowa communities can offer transitioning service members assistance along with community tours and discounted lodging and meals while interviewing.
Q: What are some lessons learned for veterans who have gone through your programs? Based on this, what advice for you have for veterans that might not know where to start?
A: One of the biggest lessons learned so far for veterans is how to best connect with Iowa employers and understanding the job search process. Oftentimes veterans learn that when they transition, sometimes it is necessary to take a step back in order to move forward. Another lesson learned for some veterans is simply how to use the resources that are available. Iowans appreciate veterans and their service, and they're happy to help. Finally, another good lesson learned is how helpful our IowaWORKS service centers can be helping veterans and their spouse find employment in the state.
For me, this program is a chance to give back and make it better. I grew up in Iowa and knew when I retired from the Air Force that I wanted to move back here to raise my kids. I've spent time in a lot of places but Iowa has always felt like home. When I retired and moved back, this program did not exist, and I faced a lot of challenges in my transition. It was tough getting an interview and I had no idea about all of the great resources that were available. Fast forward to today. The website offers veterans the opportunity to search for veteran-friendly businesses by name, location, or industry. These businesses oftentimes offer veterans a point of contact for questions or information. They can post their resume on the website, www.homebaseiowa.gov, where all Home Base Iowa businesses have access to it and where our program can promote those resumes to employers. There is statewide veteran-specific information for all 99 counties, and for Home Base Iowa communities, there are additional incentives and resources available. A great place for veterans to start is by posting a resume with Home Base Iowa and exploring the site to learn more about the opportunities and resources we have here in Iowa.