In 2011, two-time Purple Heart recipient Andrew Harris retired after serving 20 years in the Navy and with the Army National Guard as part of the 1st-101st Field Artillery unit. He had fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan and had been injured in two separate IED explosions that were exactly three months apart.
Like many returning veterans, the transition from combat to civilian life—the “what’s next” moment—was challenging, and he certainly didn’t see himself attending college.
“I’d always thought of college as a big, tall lecture room with hundreds of students,” he said. “I didn’t want to be that one student who was totally lost.”
Andrew HarrisWhen the 40-year-old vet began his job search, VA counselors suggested he look into career readiness courses offered at CCV. The Governor’s Career Ready Certificate (GCRC) class meets twice a week for 3-4 hours at CCV academic centers, and a shorter pilot designed specifically for military veterans was scheduled to start in the spring. The class focused on translating military experience to civilian workplace skills while covering the standard course modules of “soft” (resumes and job interviewing tips, teamwork, conflict resolution) and “hard” (applied math, basic computing skills, reading for information) skills.
“I’d never gone to college, and being in a room with other vets with the same experiences and fears helped,” he said. “It was comforting to me to know we were all on the same page.”
Kim and Brett Hinson were uniquely suited to team-teach the veterans’ GCRC class. Brett, an engineer who also teaches math at CCV, had worked as a hiring manager at a large defense company with many veteran employees. Kim, a teacher for more than 30 years, is outgoing and uses humor to draw students out.
Kim’s first session with the veterans was an eye opener. “They weren’t interested in interpersonal skills. Most were there for the hard skills section,” she said. “They were all so sober—at first they weren’t laughing at my jokes!” So she structured her sections around handouts of current research on hiring. One Harvard study, “Can Your Personality Get you Fired?” caught their attention. “Two of every three employees fired are let go because they are hard to get along with!” she notes. By the time they got to the resume-writing and mock interview class (human resource managers from local companies visit to give feed- back), the students had embraced both the hard and soft skill components. And, each student was visibly more confident about options for the future.