Recent VetCTAP graduates celebrate after completing a series of workshops. Courtesy photo
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Veterans find new careers through North County nonprofit

VISTA — Hundreds of veterans are transitioning successfully into civilian life thanks to a newly created job assistance program based out of Vista.

VetCTAP, which stands for Veteran Career Transition Assistance Program, recently received a prestigious grant. The Pillars of Freedom from the USS Midway Foundation grant is by invitation only and will continue to help meet the group’s mission of “preparing our heroes for today’s workplace,” Executive Director Janis Whitaker said.

San Diego County has one of the highest veteran unemployment rates in the country and one of the highest veteran per capita demographics in the country as well (living and working here).

For veterans with 10 years or more of military experience living in North County, the 5013c VetCTAP offers an eight-module workshop focusing on mock interviews, resume writing and social media profiling.

“That particular population is overlooked, so if you were to look at other organizations — and there are about 250 of us that all serve veterans — we are the only organization that serve senior military,” Whitaker said. “People think, oh they don’t need the help but actually we are finding they need a lot of help.”

It’s a common misconception that senior-level military professionals maintain active resumes or even have them at all. “You’d assume with so many skills these veterans would have decent resumes but that is so far from the truth,” Whitaker said.

Although the military helps folks in the military transition with a program called TAP, recent VetCTAP graduate Med Baheta said this was 10 times better. He found out about the workshops through a buddy. “I thought let me take this course and see what it’s about,” he said. “I’ll do anything that will help set up my future.”

The supply officer was in the Marine Corp for 23 years and now works as a program manager for a defense contractor. He enlisted when he was 18 and never had to have a resume until recently.  “They helped me draft my first one, brought people who worked in the corporate world and made recommendations,” he said. “It was a pretty in-depth class.”

Carlos Gallardo, another Marine veteran, is retiring in January and will soon work for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as a supervisory agent. “Transitioning after a lengthy military career is a difficult thing to do — VetCTAP helped prepare me for the challenge,” he said. “Learning how to deal with the different aspects of career transition has been very beneficial for me and helped to ease the enormous amounts of anxiety that come with leaving military service.”

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