Kansas Program Works to Get Military Spouses Working

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2006 - Military spouses facing a permanent change of station into or out of the Fort Riley, Kan., area can relax about at least one aspect of their pending move.

A $500,000 Workforce Investment Act grant through the Department of Labor will help them with job training and placement, Lesa Crockett, a career counselor with Heartland Works, Inc., said.

"It's not something you've probably seen before," Crockett, who's also a military spouse, said. "It's something that I'm very excited for because ... military spouses normally don't get anything unless it's provided by the (military)."

Heartland Works, Inc. is a private nonprofit company, promoting economic growth in northeastern Kansas, according to the company's Web site. It's also the administrator of the two-year renewable grant, Crockett said.

Military spouses who were employed and had to terminate that employment because of their servicemembers' change of station, including separation from the military, qualify for the grant, she said. They also must be married before the change of station occurs and be on their servicemembers' orders, she said.

"The grant covers funding for such items as tuition, books, fees, formal training, vocational training and technical training," Crockett said. "I also have money for support services, such as childcare and transportation."

For spouses who don't have a way to get to the center located in the Soldier and Family Support Building on Fort Riley, she has laptops she can take to them. This will allow the spouses take advantage of all the program has to offer, regardless of their situation, she said.

"There's supposed to be software (on the laptops) where these women can build skills ... in Microsoft Office and English as a second language," Crockett said, adding that she expects to be able to provide programs that build reading comprehension and math skills, as well.

"Confidence is half of this battle," Crockett said. "You're already displaced, then if you already have self-esteem issues, this move doesn't help a thing at all."

The office has been up and running for a little over a month, and Crockett has talked with about 15 women, she said. The program isn't for women exclusively, however. "I talked to a man the other day, but he's still located at the prior duty station and he won't be here until January," she said.

While similar programs are available at Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Hood, Texas, and in the San Diego area, it's not a large program, she said. In Kansas, it's only available in 17 counties in the northeastern part of the state.

Crockett said the grant has the potential to help thousands of military spouses in the near future.

"From my understanding, (the grant is good for) two years and after two years they will review the success or failure of it and go from there, but they're hoping this can be an ongoing project," she said. "We're hoping that this is successful because the (Base Realignment and Closure) report outlook does state that somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 spouses are to relocate in this area over the next five years."

For more information about the Heartland Works program, contact Crockett at (785) 762-WORK (9675).

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