Pictured above: Navy Veteran Maurice Williams and Lee Pingel, community employment coordinator, enjoying interacting during a SAW training session. (Photos by Mark Cristler, visual information specialist)
For those Veterans looking to sharpen their career planning tools, the Tomah VA Medical Center currently offers a fantastic opportunity.
The School at Work Program (SAW) helps Veterans invest in themselves. SAW combines education with career planning to get you on the path to college and a higher-paying position. A wide variety of educational topics are presented.
“The different skillsets being learned at School at Work include grammar, reading, medical terminology, math skills, how to interact with your coworkers, different skills like that to get them back into the workforce,” said Lee Pingel, Tomah VAMC community employment coordinator.
“It is a really a career builder…for those individuals who…have the drive to obtain employment and further their education.”
The six-month program requires two hours of class attendance and two hours of homework time per week.
“This is our first time offering it for homeless Veterans specifically,” added Megan Jensen, homeless program acting supervisor. “It is a really a career builder, getting back into the work place for those individuals who maybe struggled with maintaining consistent employment but still have the drive to obtain employment and also further their education.”
Six Veterans graduated March 9.
Veteran Patrick Honrath took part in Tomah’s inaugural class.
“Most of the stuff is refresher”, said Honrath. “Hopefully I will move on with my career plans and find better work, better jobs.”
For some, the program serves to improve on other areas.
“I am also in the CWT Program (Compensated Work Therapy) which is very helpful as far as SAW being that I am working in the hospital already. I think that’s wonderful learning the different medical terminology and things of that nature,” said Navy Veteran Maurice Williams. “As far as using what I have learned in CWT and applying that to SAW, and vice versa, it’s great.”
The typical SAW student is a healthcare employee working in departments such as transportation, food services, medical records, environmental services, admissions, or nursing as a unit clerk or nurse aide.
Jensen adds, “Ultimately it is geared towards Veterans getting employment in the health field but it is also a good prerequisite if they are thinking about going back to school. One of our participants is thinking about becoming a real estate agent so really the outcome could be anything but ultimately leading to competitive employment.”
Megan Jensen, Homeless Program Acting Supervisor, provides guidance to Army Veteran Gene Bindl
Jensen is hopes to continue the program in the future.
“We are hoping we can continue it throughout the future and get ongoing grants and keep reporting to VACO on a quarterly basis of our progress and the progress of our Veterans and the advantages of the class,” she said.
Pingel is very enthused about what the program provides Veterans.
“It’s really good for everyone. I think everyone has the opportunity to learn a different skill set they might not have had before.”
About the author: Derrick Smith is a public affairs officer at the Tomah VA Medical Center