Employment Readiness Program specialist Ernie Valtier checks the sign-in sheet at the Fort Bliss Army Community Service building February 5, 2021. | Photo by Stephanie Santos
When Fort Bliss career counselors ask clients to describe a military-life challenge, there’s one thing that always climbs to the top of the list—finding a job. It’s often depicted as a game changer, filled with uncertainty and countless hours spent looking for employment. It can feel like an endless journey.
To help ease these challenges, there’s a one-stop resource to help all Department of Defense ID card holders throughout their entire job search.
The Fort Bliss Army Community Service Employment Readiness Program offers assistance with resume writing, interview skills, job referrals, and personal career planning. ERP counselors work with each client individually to help develop a resume that reflects all of their skills and experience, said Ernie Valtier, ERP specialist.
“Creating a resume is a process that takes patience. It’s always evolving and changing each time you apply for a new vacancy, so there’s really not one final copy,” he said. “I encourage all my clients to give themselves time to invest in their resume and not try to write everything in one day.”
While Valtier’s client list ranges from transitioning Soldiers to retirees, to military spouses, to DoD civilians, his advice remains consistent throughout the job-hunting process. “Take everything step-by-step. Looking for employment can be an overwhelming process, but that’s why we’re here— to help everyone navigate through their job search,” he said.
Fellow counselor and military spouse Roman Galiki said ACS programs have impacted him throughout his 23 years of military service, and now it’s his turn to help the military community through the ERP.
“Our clients drive this process, and we want to ensure their resumes are up to standard for any hiring manager,” he said. “We want to give them the vital tools they need to transition into a new career.”
Once registered with the ERP program, clients are placed on an active email list, and receive monthly job leads with training opportunities for both the Fort Bliss and El Paso communities. In addition, career planning classes are still offered, but have been moved to a virtual platform in order to coincide with COVID-19 mitigation guidance.
All ERP classes and workshops are free of charge and topics can vary each month. Participants can learn how to start a business, and the differences between the civilian and federal resume application format. Instructors also discuss networking skills, and dress code etiquette for in-person and virtual interviews.
ERP specialist Denise Carothers primarily advises military spouses and said that a majority of employers are hesitant to invest their time and resources into training military spouses, due to impending military transitions. However, she reassures spouses that they have just as much to offer as competing candidates, and their skills should be reflected in their resume.
“I help spouses incorporate common military qualities such as resiliency, dependability, and versatility into assets that can be highlighted as strengths on their resume,” said Carothers. “I also assist them in achieving their long and short-term career goals through frequent meetings and workshop sessions.”
Carothers confirmed that employers are still hiring, and although ERP job fairs look different from the traditional crowded venues, they’re still taking place through Microsoft Teams.
“I carefully prepare my clients for potential jobs through mock interviews and truly listen to what career paths they want to take,” she said. “I seek out anything that will be an employment benefit and help make them more marketable.”
Yet, despite all of the classes and workshops offered, Carothers clarified one common misconception that comes up in all of her classes.
“Jobseekers do not have to be bilingual in order to find a job in El Paso. Many job descriptions may list that their company ‘prefers’ a bilingual candidate, but it’s not ‘required’. I don’t want this misconception to hinder anyone from seeking out the job of their dreams,” said Carothers.
“All of our counselors are here to make a positive difference, and at the end of the day we want all of our clients to succeed—that’s the ultimate goal.”