Metro coalition aims to provide networking opportunities for returning veterans seeking jobs

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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- They served our nation's armed services.

However, people in uniforms need jobs after their commitment to the United States military ends. A new program in the metro is helping veterans land those jobs, and help them transition back into civilian life.

It's all about making connections. The Kansas City Veterans Coalition is a new non-profit entity in the metro that aspires to give military members the same networking opportunities in their job searches that civilians have enjoyed for years, giving them resources tied to 50 local corporations who hire people every day.

When the call for new applicants comes, soldiers such as U.S. Army Capt. Brian Diercks say they haven't been ready, even though Diercks has experience as a project manager. He's still active duty, having served ten years in the Army, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I always knew it was a process to get a new job,” Capt. Diercks said.

But he's leaving active duty in January. Capt. Diercks says the Kansas City Veterans Coalition has introduced him to mentors in his field, and helped him build a resume in terms civilians can understand. The coalition has also set up mock interviews with existing human relations managers outside the military, and provided resume-building instruction designed to remove military jargon from civilian-world CVs.

“Everything I'm hearing suggests 75 percent of the people hired are not from plugging in a random application online. It's from knowing someone,” Capt. Diercks said.

The coalition says active-duty military personnel experience trouble networking with non-military hiring managers. The non-profit group’s program bridges the gap between the two worlds, introducing active soldiers with decision-makers in real world companies.

“All of our networks seem to be other military members. It's hard to get in contact with a business,” Capt. Diercks added.

James Elliott is the chairman of the Kansas City Veterans Coalition. He's helping connect veterans with hiring managers -- and resources that are donated at no cost. Elliott, who also works in an executive role with a Kansas City-area corporation, served eight years with the U.S. Air Force.

“The service members we've met, particularly that are completing the program right now, have gone from not really having an option to having different corporations to choose from to get hired,” Elliott told FOX 4 News.

Capt. Diercks says he dreams of a lifelong career in project planning, after his active duty is over. He says he knows of other patriots who would enjoy the same freedom to find their next calling as well.

The coalition's leaders say they want to end homelessness among local veterans. Elliott says he believes this program packs the long-term potential to make that change.

You can click here to visit the Kansas City Veterans Coalition website. The page offers a space where veterans can apply for inclusion in the program.

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