A program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
After having her children, Chelsea Bridges, a military spouse living in Maryland, was ready to get her career back on track. Armed with her Bachelor’s degree and close to 10 years of administrative experience, Bridges assumed finding a full time position in the National Capital Region would be simple. She quickly learned that Washington D.C.’s competitive market and her lack of a professional network was going to make the job search journey unpleasant and at times, downright depressing.
Luckily, Bridges came across a post on her social media feed that would change everything. The Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program (CFP) for military spouses and recently separated veterans was recruiting Maryland candidates for six week paid fellowships with host companies. Bridges met all of the eligibility requirements and applied. Within days, she was working with the program’s manager. Bridges said the manager helped her restructure her resume, provided interview techniques and started sending her job descriptions with companies that were using the CFP to fill open requisitions.
Comso Inc., a Maryland-based company providing Information Technology solutions for clients in the government and private sectors, was recruiting for an administrative position. Comso had utilized the fellowship before to fill an IT Support Specialist position with success. Lisa Goodman, Comso’s Chief Operating Officer, saw Bridges’s resume and requested an interview with her.
“When we first interviewed Chelsea, her resume summary read, ‘highly versatile, self-motivated team player, fast learner and willing to adapt to any work situation, excellent communication skills,’” said Goodman. “This absolutely describes Chelsea and is exactly what an employer wants in an employee! As a small business, our employees wear many hats and must adapt to a variety of changes, often on a daily basis. Within the short time we had Chelsea as a fellow, she proved her skills and out-shined other more experienced Comso employees! When our corporate needs changed, and we had an opportunity to hire Chelsea, there was no hesitation. We recognized the immediate value she brings to Comso.”
Bridges is one of the many success stories made possible through the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program (CFP) for military spouses and recently separated veterans. The CFP is a Maryland-based pilot program and is possible due to a $4.3 million Department of Labor, National Dislocated Worker Grant awarded to Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation (AAWDC).
Through the grant, AAWDC stood up Military Corps Career, Connect (C3). C3 serves Maryland’s transitioning service members, active duty military spouses and recently separated veterans (non-retirees). All veteran and military spouse CFP applicants must be unemployed or underemployed, and must live in Maryland for no more than 48 months.
C3 director Shauna Donahue said the initiative works one-on-one with veterans and military spouses to help them receive in-demand industry credentials, certifications, and licenses that are needed for successful civilian careers. C3 also provides on-the-job training and paid work experience, which enables veterans and military spouses to get the hands-on experience employers are looking for.
“The work C3 performs in partnership with the Hiring Our Heroes for veterans and active duty military spouses is critical,” says Donahue, “Over half of our veterans have experienced a period of unemployment their first year out of military service. At nearly 20%, the military spouse unemployment rate is four times higher than the current rate for all adult women.”
The Maryland CFP enables companies to access the talents and skills that veterans and their family members provide the workforce– all at no cost. Eligible candidates are placed in positions for six weeks with host companies. Fellows work Monday thru Thursday, 32 hours per week and are paid an hourly rate. The fellowship allows a candidate to gain hands on experience in the daily operations of a corporate environment and allows employers to see if the candidate is the right fit for the job and their corporate culture, all at no risk.
During her fellowship, Bridges said she completed administrative tasks for several departments at COMSO Inc. but quickly started assisting the Program Manager and Senior Portfolio Manager with hiring employees for government contracts. During the final week of her fellowship, Bridges interviewed, and was offered a Talent Acquisition Specialist position with Comso. Bridges said her six-week fellowship felt like a six-week interview and said she used the opportunity to stand out as much as possible.
“I decided to make myself indispensable to them, and it completely worked,” said Bridges, “The fellowship was an amazing experience for me. It is the perfect way for a military spouse to reenter the workforce after a military move or a gap in employment due to having children. Having my Hiring Our Heroes Program Manager as my advocate made the process so much easier.”
The Maryland CFP is currently accepting applications for fellows and also seeking host companies looking to utilize the fellowship for open requisitions. Interested organizations can learn more and apply to participate by visiting the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program page.
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A Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation