A special new program is giving Canberra’s veterans a chance to secure a rewarding civilian job.
Funded by the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), the RSL Veterans Employment Program is a nationwide effort to provide specialist career services to not only local veterans but also their immediate families, all completely free of charge.
This includes assistance with changing careers, writing resumes and cover letters, preparing for job interviews and gaining connections with employers that appreciate the unique combination of qualifications, skills, training and experience veterans have to offer.
Case navigator for the ACT branch of the Returned Services League (RSL) Elle Wilman, says those who leave the armed forces often experience a loss of identity, camaraderie, purpose and financial support.
“Studies show that paid employment not only provides financial security; it gives daily structure, a sense of worth and regular supportive social engagement,” she says.
“This new program assists by actively walking the veteran and their family through the possibly unfamiliar area of finding and gaining meaningful civilian employment.”
Many RSL members have already transitioned out of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and understand how hard it can be to adjust to civilian life.
“Differences pop up in the culture, language used, hierarchy (or lack of) and even seeing promoting yourself as a good thing,” Elle says.
Unlike many other veteran programs, RSL also acknowledges all those partners who have put their careers on hold while supporting their loved one, the children who have had to move schools and the general uncertainty in family life from not knowing what comes next.
“Assisting partners and immediate family members into meaningful employment improves outcomes for veterans too. Transitioning from the ADF into civilian life impacts an entire family and any stress we can take off the veteran family is a good thing.”
Kids and partners will be able to get help with writing their CVs and cover letters, tips for interviews and finding the right courses at TAFE.
“All that stuff that doesn’t necessarily come naturally, especially if you haven’t been in the workforce for a while, if ever,” Elle says. “They can take pressure off themselves and therefore the veteran, knowing there is a goal in sight.”
Also included under the banner of immediate family are reservists, widows and widowers, who will be able to access the same services.
Elle says they have strived to make the program simple and easy to access, starting with an online webform where people can apply.
“We ask the participant what they want to achieve in a month, a year or whatever time with their career and work backwards to formulate an individual plan to get them there,” she says.
“No two people are the same, so its not just a matter of asking them to look on SEEK and start applying for jobs… A tailored approach to each individual and their specific needs, strengths and areas of improvement is what I hope will encourage our participants.”
The program doesn’t end once they have landed a job either, but continues to keep in touch for at least a year to ensure “they are well supported and satisfied in the new position”.
“We also encourage employers keen to employ or work with veterans to advertise any vacancies they have with us,” Elle says. “We advertise the role on our national website, as well as the state websites for no charge.”
Elle describes the feedback from veterans as “really positive” so far.
“I’ve spoken with some participants who came in with zero confidence in themselves, feeling pretty down, regretting ever leaving ADF and with huge financial worries. But after working with us for a few months, they have started re-skilling, getting call-backs for interviews or have just had a noticeable increase in self confidence and their abilities to find civilian work,” she says.
Some veterans just aren’t ready to face the working week when they first approach the program, but Elle says they are able to point these people in the direction of specialised help, whether it be for mental health, medical conditions, advocacy or welfare services.
“Ultimately, the aim is to assist as many people as possible into meaningful work, not just a job, so that the ACT’s veteran families can thrive,” Elle says.
“We’d like to serve you, because after all, you served us.”