After serving in the Marine Corps as a young man, Jay returned to civilian life and became a highly successful businessman. Now, he is CEO and owner of Phil Long Dealerships, the largest privately held automobile dealership group in Colorado. Throughout his life, Jay has had a passion for supporting our local military and their families in numerous ways. He provided assistance to family members during deployments as well as supported military organizations.
In 2014, he wanted to take the next step. Jay decided to create a place where military, veterans, and their families can get the support and services they deserve: the Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center.
Mt. Carmel’s mission is:
“To collaborate with community partners providing best practices in transition and wellness services for veterans, military and their families by delivering expertise, resources, space and sustainability.”
LeaderQuest is proud to participate in Mt. Carmel’s mission by offering free workshops that focus on expanding professional skills, such as maximizing the potential of LinkedIn and the art of the interview.
We were able to get a few minutes of time from Cindy McLaughlin, Marketing and Communications Manager for Mt. Carmel, to ask her about Mt. Carmel’s mission and progress so far.
1. How does Mt. Carmel serve the local community?
At its core, everything we do at Mt. Carmel is designed to make it EASY for military, veterans, and their family members to get the resources and services they deserve. In our 16,000 square foot center, we partner with over 30 great organizations, like LeaderQuest, to bring a broad array of services together under one roof. In addition, the great services our partners deliver include VA benefits support, financial counseling, workforce support, and educational assistance and counseling. Our Mt. Carmel Staff runs multiple programs to include the employment and transition, behavioral health counseling and wellness, and supportive services management and resource navigation.
2. What has been the most challenging thing about fulfilling Mt. Carmel’s mission?
The most challenging thing has been creating an environment where so many different organizations can be successful in serving veterans by integrating services without feeling like they lose their own unique identities. It is really important to us that our partners know that they are valued and that we respect their separate needs as individual organizations, and that by working together with us, we all can be better at meeting our individual AND collective missions.
3. Since opening in March of 2016, what has Mt. Carmel accomplished in the community?
We are thrilled to share that since we began operations in 2016, we have supported 8,311 client visits. We have also secured employment or critical training placements for more than 557 transitioning service members at an average wage of $26.10/hour. We’ve also provided behavioral health counseling to over 150 military-connected individuals and resolved the needs of over 394 people so that they could become more self-sufficient.
4. What do you want to make sure veterans know as they transition?
Transitioning from military service to a new civilian life can be a very stressful time for not only the service member but also for their entire family. We have a unique focus on service members in transition as all of our Peer Navigators working one-on-one with them at Mt. Carmel are recent veterans themselves. They know exactly what it feels like to go through that life change. Mt. Carmel’s staff can help them with more than just finding a meaningful civilian career – they can provide support through all of the areas; financial consultations, behavioral health counseling, and even connections to housing opportunities if you need that. But, the most important message for those in transition is that “you are not alone!” Our team and our wonderful partners are here to help and we know that each service member can achieve great things in their civilian lives!
5. How can volunteers help Mt. Carmel’s mission?
At Mt. Carmel there are lots of opportunities to volunteer. We have people support our front desk activities with Greet and Connect, we have resource fairs and other outreach opportunities where volunteers can represent us to the public, and they can also do any number of office types of support. Specifically, in our employment and transition departments, we can always use people to support our networking and mock interview events. We will try to fit the best job to each volunteer so that they can feel happy and satisfied at the end of the day!
At LeaderQuest, veterans hold a special place in our hearts. Many of our team members are veterans, as well as much of our leadership team. We love employing veterans because they bring discipline, commitment, and strength to our team.
We wanted to give a big THANK YOU to all the veterans out there. We value your service and your sacrifice. Thank you for making America safer and stronger.
LeaderQuest is committed to helping veterans transition into the civilian workforce. We’re very proud of the work of our Community Engagement Manager, Aaron Kiewicz. In Colorado Springs, Aaron serves the veteran population as an aide and a confidant on behalf of LeaderQuest. His mission is to create effective bonds with veterans and support them as they shift from working in the military to a civilian profession. He spends his days assisting veterans with practical skills like how to create a resume, how to find jobs for veterans, how to create a LinkedIn account, and how to leverage networking effectively. It may seem daunting to look for jobs after military retirement, which is why it’s important to find organizations that want to help.
Aaron Kiewicz retired from the Air Force in 2014 after working as a jet engine mechanic, a maintenance instructor, and a military trainer. He gave a lifetime of service to the armed forces and wanted to remain in a service role as he shifted to civilian life. Kiewicz’s first position was at a non-profit where he assisted active duty service members with their transition. That’s when he realized his next mission in life. Aaron saw the trials that arise with a transition and wished to encourage others to succeed as he did.
“It is like teaching them how to fish but not fishing for them. We want to teach them how to interview. We want to teach them how to write a resume. We want to teach them how to cater their resume to find the career they are seeking. We want to teach them how to put all the correct words in LinkedIn so recruiters notice them. We want to teach them how to network the proper way and how to stop using military jargon that confuses a civilian employer.”
Aaron has knowledge as civilian and a soldier which helps him bridge the gap between both environments.
Jobs for Veterans – Partner Organizations
As they transition, soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines are trying to create a completely new identity. In any given month, 400-700 people leave the military in Colorado Springs. When making a new life there is so much to consider. LeaderQuest is actively working in the city with other organizations to make this transition a smooth one. We work with four partners in Colorado Springs:
The Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence is a nonprofit that concentrates on wellness programs for veterans and serves as a “services hub” to help veterans find everything they need in one place.
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, a Department of Defense effort, helps National Guard and Reserve service members and their families connect with local resources before, during, and after deployments.
The Wounded Warrior Project seeks to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history by providing unique programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.
In addition to the partners above, LeaderQuest works with three air force bases, and one army base, Fort Carson. Fort Carson is the largest employer in Colorado Springs.
These organizations all speak the same language when it comes to helping veterans make the transition. They share the same objective, which is just to be a guide in this crucial period. LeaderQuest and these partner organizations love to help out by advising on career strategy and giving veterans an opportunity to get in front of experts that can advise on valuable life skills that ultimately lead to fulfilling career options.
All of the veteran support organizations have a very holistic approach. They are in it for the success of the veterans and work together as a unit to make that happen. Each organization is equipped with knowledge of the opportunities available, even if it is outside of their focus area. They provide the resources and it’s up to the veteran to make the decision if it’s right or not.
Veteran outreach happens primarily through events and introductions. The most common outreach event is Q&A sessions with 20 employers. These are casual events with open invitations to veterans to come and ask questions followed by a breakout session. The breakout is an opportunity to for veterans have a one on one exploratory conversation with an employer or program that seems interesting to them. This is simply information gathering for veterans to learn more about what’s out there. The most important outcome is to provide resources and be of value to someone seeking a career for the next phase of their life.
Aaron says it’s about finding a good fit for the veteran. “I want to give them the skills to make that career change as seamlessly as possible. I do this by matching up the skills they have from the military and the skills they need to change careers and show them how they line up. It’s really seeking out if they want a career change or if they want to improve upon the skills they already have. I can also determine if they have a different skillset that can be used in other industries and guide them to that organization.”
Cross referral is Aaron’s other outreach technique. If Aaron is working with someone who has a deep-rooted interest in a different career path and he can make an introduction for the veteran, he does. He’s well connected in the community, and he knows many people offering jobs for vets.
Aaron is an expert when it comes to guiding transitioning vets to the IT certifications that will get them where they really want to go. He takes pride in connecting people in the community with cyber-security, product, and project management courses that can help them get the civilian career they’re looking for. He knows not everyone is suited for a career in IT but those that are can really add value to their lives with the training.
“It’s my nature to help. That’s what LeaderQuest is about. We are a company that’s here to help. Ultimately, our goal is to help you in the three areas we specialize in. Lending a hand is sometimes all someone needs. Even if they may not ever touch a computer in their life. It all leads to a positive outcome. It is a selfless type of job because deep down it’s all about helping.”
If you’re a veteran seeking additional information, please reach out to us. You may want to get started with one of our events, which are always free and open to the public, or you can learn more on our website about how you can transition into a lucrative career in IT. The skills you have been nurturing in the military can easily be applied to a program in IT, and the VA benefits you earned while serving in the armed forces may help to pay for it. We realize that transitions can be difficult, which is why we have people like Aaron to guide you along the way. If you have any questions or just want to chat with someone who has been where you are standing now, LeaderQuest has the staff to assist you. We want to help you achieve success, and we love finding jobs for veterans! The first step is sometimes the most difficult one, but we are here to help.