Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
Kansas Secretary of Commerce Antonio Soave addressed the 15 members of the first cohort of the Hiring our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program, their families and guests during the graduation ceremony April 13 in Marshall Lecture Hall at the Lewis and Clark Center.
Soave and Transition Services Manager Brett Rosene presented certificates and pins to each of the graduates who worked with 11 host companies in the region.
In his opening remarks, Col. Andrew Shoffner, Garrison commander, said the Corporate Fellowship Program is a 12-week program that allows transitioning service members who are within 180 days of separation or retirement to connect with corporations looking to hire middle- and senior-level management talent. He said this particular group is the largest and most successful first cohort of Hiring Our Heroes for any installation.
“All of the service members who applied were chosen for the fellowship program. And, one fellow was subsequently a direct placement and participated in a hybrid program to accommodate the host company,” Shoffner said. “Four relocated from Fort Riley to attend the Fort Leavenworth fellowship program. At the end of the 12 weeks, there was an 87 percent job offer rate to those who are graduating today.”
Shoffner introduced Soave, noting that he was appointed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in the fall of 2015 and confirmed in January 2016.
“In a career spanning more than 25 years, Soave helped many entrepreneurs and businesses expand and grow around the globe,” Shoffner said.
Soave, who also served as an adjunct professor of international economics and finance at the Walsh College of Business in Troy, Mich., and was an intern in the White House Office of Public Liaison’s Department of Foreign Policy and Defense under President Ronald Reagan, said he was honored to speak to the first cohort. He said it was not easy to convey the significant level of appreciation of the State of Kansas for what military service members do each and every day.
“It is indeed insufficient only to call you heroes because you also represent many of the positive things that are often absent or have been lost in some parts of our society today,” Soave said. “You represent dignity, valor, honesty, integrity, decency. All of those core characteristics and values seem to have gone, to some degree, by the wayside in society at-large. But, not with you.”
Soave said transitioning soldiers bring a value system and proven work ethic to corporations. He said transitioning soldiers continue to have a profound and positive impact on businesses and the state.
Ursla McCarthy, the program manager for Hiring Our Heroes’ Corporate Fellowship Program at Fort Leavenworth, said participating host companies provided exemplary testimonies about the job performance of the transitioning soldiers. She said all of the companies offered jobs to each of the fellows and some negotiations were still underway.
Page 2 of 3 - “Upon conclusion of the program, 87 percent of the members of our first cohort accepted positions,” McCarthy said. “I’d like to thank each of you for participating. You were rock stars.”
Commencement ceremony speaker, Lt. Col. Frank Nieto, Mission Command Center of Excellence, and Sgt. Jesse Byers from Fort Riley interned at Amazon. Capt. Zachary Brownlee, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 40th Military Police Battalion (Detention), interned with Black & Veatch. Maj. Brian Diercks, Mission Command Training Program, and Col. Kevin Romano, Army University, were interns at Cerner.
Capt. Brian Glasser, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 40th Military Police Battalion, and Master Sgt. Mark McKinney, Corps of Engineers, Kansas City Region, were at Hallmark. Col. Norma Bradford, Army Reserve Affairs, and Sgt. 1st Class James Schutt, E Troop, 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Riley, Kan., interned with IHG. Lt. Col. Adam Chalmers, MCTP, interned with HNTB. Staff Sgt. Easton Douglas from Fort Riley interned with Johnson Controls.
Lt. Col. Patrick Lachance, MCTP, interned with Exhibit Associates. Maj. Steven Miller, Combined Arms Center, worked with Fleishman-Hillard Publishing, and Master Sgt. Jason Waitkoss, MCCoE, who was a fellow working with John Knox Village.
Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Randolph accepted a position with Alpha Pointe. He said there were many advantages to participating in the corporate fellowship and would encourage transitioning soldiers to apply.
“In addition to the obvious networking opportunities inherent with the internship, there were the transitional aspects of learning how to adapt my military-based processes to those relevant to a civilian company,” Randolph said. “It was a great environment, very productive. And, it presented the type of team atmosphere I’ve come to appreciate. I’m happy about the offer of employment I received from Alpha Pointe.”
McCarthy acknowledged the Garrison Command team, the participating host companies, the program staff and the fellows for contributing to the inaugural success.
“Transition Services Manager Brett Rosene goes above and beyond to ensure there is a connection with corporations in the region,” McCarthy said. “He gives the Hiring Our Heroes program the type of exposure it needs with participating businesses by constantly networking the features of this program throughout the region.”
Cheryl Edenfield, installation administrator for the Army Career Skills Program, said she works with soldiers participating in the Soldier For Life - Transition Assistance Program. She said that the Career Skills Program includes opportunities for transitioning soldiers to take part in various apprenticeships, internships, job shadow opportunities, on-the-job training and employment skills training.
“To be eligible to participate, soldiers must expect to be honorably discharged or discharged under honorable conditions, and released from active duty within 180 calendar days of starting a program,” Edenfield said.
Page 3 of 3 - Rosene said Hiring Our Heroes is a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation that launched in March 2011 as a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.
“The first cohort was a resounding success,” Rosene said. “This program demonstrates the continuing value of what veterans bring to our society, not only during their military careers but after transitioning as well.”
Considered to be an integral element of the military life cycle transition model, Rosene said initiatives like the Corporate Fellowship Program also encourage soldiers to capitalize on the training opportunities available to turn their military skills into post-service careers. He said the process is a valuable resource whether soldiers are pursuing additional education, finding a job in the public or private sector, or starting their own business after service.
“We provide information, tools and training,” Rosene said. “This is a resource for service members and their spouses to prepare for their next step in life.”
The number of participating companies determines how many internships are available. Kansas City-area companies interested in taking part in the Corporate Fellowship Program should contact Edenfield at 684-8999 or email@example.com.