Calling all veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, and military spouse entrepreneurs in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota! The PenFed Foundation’s Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program (VEIP) is launching the Ignition Challenge, presented by MidCountry Bank on Tuesday, May 4.
The Ignition Challenge is a competition in which military entrepreneurs can identify their business impact and goals, compete for votes, and winners will receive both funding and mentorship. The top, most developed new companies and business ideas will be selected to compete for grants of $15,000 and business coaching from VEIP.
Applications are open from May 4 – May 19. Please see VEIP’s website for more information and to apply today!
Army Veteran Rob Reynolds hit his limit last summer. Following nearly 8 months in jail for charges which were ultimately dismissed, Rob found himself released in the dead of January with nothing but the clothes on his back. After years of small business ownership, Rob now had no money, no assets, and a wrecked credit score through no fault of his own.
This was not how Rob’s life had played out up to that point. He served in the Army as a young man, providing radio and telephone communications to Camp Stanley in South Korea and a secondary duty as the General’s driver. After discharge, he owned a small business performing sewer maintenance for years. Nothing about his past suggested that Rob would end up homeless.
Veterans like Rob, those who experience literal homelessness, are sometimes difficult to engage simply because they have a hard time believing that anyone can really help them. When he decided to respond to MACV Hotel Program Manager James McCloden’s ongoing contact attempts, Rob explains, “I didn’t think anyone could help me and my life was done.” But within 12 hours of talking to James, the Veteran found himself walking into a room at MACV housing partner Extended Stay.
Following two weeks in the hotel, Rob moved into one of MACV’s transitional housing properties, where he now resides while rebuilding his business. The MACV Employment Services team helped Rob secure a job which allows him to use a company van to do his own contracts outside working hours. This allows him to focus all his income on relaunching General Rooter, the business he owned for decades. Employment Case Manager Scot Harris connected Rob with a web designer, resulting in a website for General Rooter set to come online in May 2021.
Rob also recently secured a private business loan from an individual interested in supporting Veterans, creating additional funding for routine costs small business often incur upon opening. “A bunch of pieces of the puzzle came together because of MACV,” Rob notes.
“I owe all the thanks to MACV,” says Robert. “They’ve got me in a safety net, basically.” Hoping to give back to other Veterans in need, Rob hopes to become an employer partner when he starts hiring employees again. Having already secured new contracts, he also plans to move into his own place in the next month or two. MACV staff who worked with Rob the longest, like James McCloden, are now friends Rob wants to keep in his life for years to come. We celebrate the incredible progress Rob made over the past year, and are honored to watch this determined, capable Veteran reestablish the life he deserves.
TO: MDVA Stakeholders
I’m pleased to share that MDVA has been notified that all three of Minnesota’s proposed new State Veterans Homes projects (to be located in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston) will receive federal funding this year. The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently released the State Home Construction Grants FY 2021 Conditional Approvals.
We have pursued Federal funding for these important projects since 2018. This investment will allow MDVA to expand our State Veterans Homes into three new communities to serve our elderly Veterans living in all corners on the state.
In 2018, the Minnesota Legislature allocated $33 million toward the cost of the projects. The funding plan is a combination of federal-granted (65 percent), state-bonded and community-provided monies (35 percent).
We appreciate the Minnesota Legislature’s past support of our Veterans and these projects. The approval of Federal funds will allow us to now move forward with construction. The planning and design process is nearly complete and now with this exciting news, those final touches can be made.
The three new Minnesota Veterans Homes projects are slated to receive more than $80 million in Federal VA funds. By June 30, MDVA will complete the Federal VA grant application process to obtain the funds.
MDVA leaders have worked closely with local elected officials and Veterans’ stakeholders on the planning for the new Veterans Homes. The communities of Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston have been very engaged in the process, donating land for the building sites and raising additional funds to support amenities for the new Homes.
Construction could begin as early as early fall 2021 with an anticipated 18-month construction schedule.
Thank you for your support. Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information.
Serving Minnesota Veterans and Their Families | MinnesotaVeteran.org
MACV is hosting a series of recurring webinars for all job seekers through our Employment Services program. The webinars came about through feedback solicited by the MACV Employment Services team, who reached out to current and former program participants to see how they were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Feedback focused on a lack of access to two services MACV previously provided during in-office visits: the resume classes formerly held twice a week in the MACV conference room, and an orientation session held in partnership with VA Community Employment Coordinator and Army Veteran Deric Williams focused on navigating and applying to jobs on federal job website USAJobs. Veterans and staff alike also noted the increasing number of companies conducting job interviews via phone or web-based platforms.
Responding to the evolving needs of Veterans looking for work, we hosted the first of our web series in June with “Resume Development,” followed up in August with “USAJobs: Learning How to Apply for Government Jobs,” and launching the “Telephone and Video Conference Interviewing Skills and Techniques” webinar in September. Staff also introduced a virtual workshop covering how to install Zoom, conduct basic internet searches, and complete online job searches and applications in September.
The team is also collaborating with MACV’s newly created Justice Involved Veterans initiative to develop a webinar aimed at addressing justice involvement during a job interview. These webinars are possible because of the hard work and expertise of presenters Bob Anderson (MACV), Deric Williams (Department of Veterans Affairs), and Kari Elias (Cygnus Recruiting Group). Thank you for your commitment to stabilizing Veterans in need!
Many Veterans leave the military with skills and interests which align them with industries such as construction, transportation, logistics, and labor, which all have strong union presences in the American workforce. Employment Case Manager Ryan Schaefer, a Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps with a background which includes carpentry, farming, and now social services, has great insight into the opportunities and challenges labor unions create for MACV Veterans.
“I’ve helped guys get up to date or keep up to date if they’re behind on their union due,” explains Schaefer, “That’s the number one that we use.” Other common interactions MACV has with local unions include initial payment of dues for new members, which are commonly higher than the maintenance payment existing members pay.
Why pay dues at all? Local labor unions often hold the cards for lucrative, stable jobs in skilled labor industries like plumbing and electrician work. Dues paid by union laborers give them access to these opportunities, bargaining rights, and protections from a volatile job market.
At least in theory. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on even the most stable unions, sidelining industries such as electricians and construction workers for months or even years. “[A Minnesota] electrician’s union didn’t even accept any applications in 2020, so now there’s a backlog of two years’ worth of member applications which need processing,” reports Schaefer. These kinds of administrative problems have very real impacts on the financial stability of Veterans served by MACV.
Barriers like reliable transportation across a physically large state with a wide range of work sites also pose challenges to Veterans who may not have a driver’s license or cannot afford a car. Paying upfront for expenses like a hotel room or other temporary living arrangement, then waiting for union reimbursement, often writes MACV Veterans off the list for high-paying jobs outside their immediate community.
Schaefer also notes that Veterans themselves often play a significant role in whether they succeed in the union environment. Soft skills MACV emphasizes in its Employment Services like monitoring job boards, using computers to apply for jobs, building interpersonal relationships in the work environment, and becoming familiar with conduct standards all play roles in the successful union member’s life. “We might have a guy who gets their first job after we pay their union dues, but then never finds another one because he doesn’t look,” he explains.
These simple oversights may discourage an inexperienced worker and have long-lasting impacts on their employability and ability to build experience on the job. Factors such as age, criminal background, professional qualifications, and reputation also contribute to a Veteran’s success in the union-tied trades.
At the end of the day, choosing to join or leave the U.S. military is a career choice. Bridging the divide between the military and civilian work environment is the most concrete divide Veterans experience upon leaving active duty. A shared background in the military and civilian worlds is an especially critical factor for working with the Veteran population struggling to succeed in their work life. MACV considers this team a critical element for the long-term stabilization of homeless and at-risk Veterans. Thanks for all the hard work, guys!
Learn about resources, services, and benefits provided by multiple state agencies available to Minnesota’s Veterans, National Guard and Reserves, transitioning service members, and their families!
Visit any of the following virtual booths to be equipped with an understanding of the programs available and how to access these resources:
The purpose of this event is to empower veterans, transitioning service members, National Guard and Reserves, and their family members with knowledge about available resources. Participants will learn how to get connected to Employment Services, Legal Assistance, Homeless Services, Financial Assistance, Veterans Benefits, Education, Healthcare, Suicide Prevention/Mental Health Services, Apprenticeship Programs, and Entrepreneurship.
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations to attend this event should contact Shannon Sprouse at Shannon.Sprouse@state.mn.us by within 3 days of event.