From Combat Medic to Master’s in Communication: Army Veteran Advances Education, Career Opportunities through Texas Operation Welcome Home

U.S. Army Veteran, Texas State Graduate Student David Beadle
Photo: U.S. Army Veteran and Texas State Graduate Student David Beadle

Military veterans and their spouses have an array of options to bolster their transition into civilian life. But as U.S. Army Veteran David Beadle and many others have discovered, Texas goes one step further in its commitment to honoring our nation’s heroes, by offering a program to provide a seamless transition to employment.

David is one of more than 1.5 million veterans estimated to call Texas home. In response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s charge to identify gaps in services to veterans, Texas Operation Welcome Home (TOWH) was created to assist and provide training opportunities to recently separated service members preparing for employment in high-growth, high-demand occupations.

The goal of the program is to provide a clear pathway for veterans such as David, as they move into civilian employment in the Lone Star State, by eliminating obstacles to attaining licensing, certification, accreditation and degree awards, so that veterans transition quickly into the workforce.

David, meanwhile, is a testimony that clear pathways help. David served as a combat medic for five years in the Army.

U.S. Army Spc. David Beadle's basic training graduation photo
Photo: U.S. Army Spc. David Beadle during basic training

He said when he left the service in 2003, as a Specialist (E-4), he wasn’t sure what path to follow as a civilian as he settled in the Austin area.

“I attended college through the years, but I spent the majority of that time working and kind of building my own career,” he said. “I looked for a career change and in doing that I realized I wanted to add more marketable skills.”

In 2015, David enrolled in the Occupational, Workforce and Leadership Studies (OWLS) program at Texas State, which works in partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the Texas Workforce Solutions network.

David said the difference at school this time was that he tapped into the veterans’ network at the university, which helped him map out a clear plan to earn his degree.

“Through the OWLS program I was able to take the military experience that I had and transfer that over into college credit. Unlike other universities, the credits that they transferred from the military were actually applicable to my degree plan,” David said.

David credits the support of the TWC-backed veterans program, and his peers, for expediting his transition.

“I was lucky enough to find a few other veterans in the program who helped remind me that I wasn’t the only one managing school and life,” he said. “That social element was a key component in completing my degree.”

In 2017, David graduated from Texas State with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree, with a focus on Business and Sociology. He stayed on at the university to pursue a Master’s degree in Communication Studies.

David now helps fellow veterans and Bobcats navigate the challenges of academic work as a Communications Graduate Instructional Assistant at Texas State. He encourages veterans to take advantage of programs such as TOWH to expedite their career goals, and offered some advice based on his experiences.

“The best advice I can give veterans on the same path is to talk to people,” David said. “Ask for help. Keep moving forward towards a goal and don’t stop chipping away at it — it will happen!”

Texas Operation Welcome Home LogoTo learn more about resources available just for veterans in Texas, as well as training and employment opportunities statewide, please visit the Texas Operation Welcome Home website.

Veterans helping veterans

Support for veterans can come in many forms. At the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), that support comes in the form of fellow veterans. Last fall, U.S. Air Force veteran Kandyss Touchstone found herself in Texas with two children and only three bags of belongings. She was starting over after more than 12 years of military life, first as a serviceperson then as a military spouse.

Touchstone quickly secured housing, but shortly after settling in Houston, she was hospitalized for approximately a month. That was when the reality of transitioning to civilian life and the challenges of employment began to surface. The holidays were quickly approaching, and Touchstone had exhausted her savings, was unable to find a job and faced possible eviction. Reluctantly but desperately, she reached out to a Veterans Resource and Referral Specialist through the TWC’s Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP).

This unique program provides veterans with assistance in finding employment, education, job-training or referrals to other community veteran service organizations, and to state or federal programs. The TVLP’s Veteran Resource and Referral Specialists are all veterans with firsthand knowledge and understanding about the challenges of transitioning into civilian life. “Peer-to-peer support is very important in building relationships and trust,” said TVLP Director Bob Gear. “Whatever the need is – short-term, long-term − every situation is unique, but with everyone working together, including our partners in other agencies, this program works to connect veterans to the resources to meet those needs.”

The Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP) was formed in 2008 to serve as a resource and to also provide referrals to returning veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, and Operation Inherent Resolve; however the TVLP does not turn away any veteran seeking assistance. Touchstone connected with the Gulf Coast region’s Veterans Resource and Referral Specialist Chris Howard who quickly provided her with resources and referrals to address the immediate issues – clothes, food, groceries and housing assistance. Next, Howard helped Touchstone write her resume and polish her interview skills.

He was able to connect Touchstone with Nancy Agravante, a staffing specialist with Workforce Solutions Gulf Coast who led her to job interviews and ultimately, an employment opportunity with a state agency. Recently, Touchstone was promoted and is now settling into her new life in Texas. “Emailing the TVLP changed my life,” said Touchstone. “I don’t know where I would be right now without their help.” For Touchstone, the TVLP program provided her clear guidance during a very stressful time. She advises other veterans to seek assistance from the program. “Just follow their directions. They really help and they really change lives,” Touchstone said. “This was not just for me; this was also for my kids. They helped me to feed them and provide for them and that means everything.”

Since its inception, the TVLP has reached out to more than 22,200 veterans and provided direct services to more than 18,000 veterans. For more on the TVLP, please visit texasworkforce.org/txvlp.

How Texas Partners with Colleges to Provide College Credit for Veterans

IMG_0152 Jimmy Burnett CCFH Intern Grayson CollegeThe Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) recently announced the expansion of College Credit for Heroes project, awarding $800,000 to support five new accelerated accreditation programs, expanding the projects reach with new education partners and better meeting the needs of veteran students.

Launched as a pilot 2011, College Credit for Heroes partners with 37 universities and community colleges throughout Texas that recognize the knowledge and skills gained by military service members and award college credits for their military experience, allowing these veterans to more easily transition into the civilian workforce. College Credit for Heroes was designated as a permanent program with the passage of SB 806 in the 84th Legislative Session.

“We are pleased to announce the new accelerated programs that demonstrate a commitment to launching innovative approaches to better recognize and credit the training and service of our veterans,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “TWC and our partners will continue to replicate and scale programs that ease the transition of our heroes into Texas jobs.”

The additional colleges and universities will further expand the College Credit for Heroes initiative to locations throughout Texas. This new collaboration will increase the number of veterans and service members who can benefit from the accelerated educational programs.

One of the new participants in College Credit for Heroes is Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), which is developing an accelerated Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) degree in which well-qualified veterans can complete program requirements in less than one year through rapid, online based curricula that students can complete at TTUHSC campuses located in Amarillo, Dallas and the Austin area beginning Spring 2016. Plans are to expand to Abilene and Odessa in 2017.

For a full list of participating colleges and academic opportunities available through College Credit for Heroes, visit: www.collegecreditforheroes.org.

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A Resource For Veterans

As many did this past weekend, we too took time to salute all our US Military personnel and veterans for their sacrifice and service to this great country. The role they play in allowing most of us to live relatively care-free lives cannot be overstated, and I for one am guilty of taking that for granted all too often.

The US Military is seldom described as a training organization, but in fact it is, and the largest one in the world at that. And the product of all that training are men and women who are focused, dedicated, able to work well under pressure, understand the meaning of “good” communication, and routinely function in environments where command of subject matter and ability to quickly process information and react are absolutely critical to success. In short, they’re great potential employees. The trick really, is just making the connection with them.

That connection is something the public workforce system is continuously working on, and it takes many forms. It’s connecting employers and veterans, military skills to non-military career fields, military training to public accreditation programs and industry-recognized credentials, and so on.

Specific to the connection between employers and veterans, I’d like to point out MilitaryFriendly.com and a page they’ve put up detailing the Top 100 most veteran-friendly employers. The list includes company name, profile, accolades, a link to open jobs, and a ton of other relevant information about their efforts specific to hiring veterans.

It’s a great resource for any vet looking for work and I hope you’ll share it with any you might know. I’m not saying it’s an “in the bank” job offer, but an educated job seeker is a well-prepared job seeker. And knowing which companies have an ongoing commitment to hiring veterans for what they bring to the table, well, there’s not much better prep than that.

Red, White & You!

Helping our US Military Veterans successfully transition from their military careers is something we at TWC place a very high emphasis on. We work hand in hand with the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) to ensure that every veteran who wants or needs it, receives all the assistance the Texas workforce system can provide.

To that end, via a partnership with Governor Rick Perry, Texas Medical Center surgeon Dr. James Henry “Red” Duke, Jr., Texas Workforce Solutions, and TVC, let me introduce:

Hiring Red, White & You! November 15 Job Fair.

“Hiring Red, White & You.” Hiring Red, White & You is a big, coordinated job fair event that will take place in each of the state’s 28 Workforce Development Areas on Nov. 15, 2012, with the main focus being to help address the employment needs of Texas veterans.

This unprecedented statewide initiative will help Texas employers interested in hiring veterans for their experience, discipline and other exceptional qualities, easily connect with Texas veterans. These job fairs are free to all veterans and employers, though pre-registration is encouraged.

If you’re an employer interested in participating, please contact your nearest Workforce Solutions Office.

If you’re a veteran (or an employer) and would like more information regarding times and locations, or to get contact information for the event in your area, please visit this webpage. There’s also a PSA on YouTube easily found here. And if you still have questions or want more information, feel free to contact TWC at redwhiteandyou@twc.state.tx.us or 512-936-3103.