Returning to the civilian workforce is one of the biggest challenges veterans face and the need for veteran support programs. Cases of unemployment or underemployment lead to homelessness. In fact, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development numbered in January 2018 an estimate of about 37,878 veterans who experienced homelessness. While it’s great to thank these heroes for their sacrifice, it’s clear that helping them succeed is far more important. Nonprofit organization Vets2Success knows this all too well. It conducts programs to help veterans enrich their professional lives.
Recognizing the Need for Action
Over 45,000 nonprofit organizations focus on veteran support programs. However, almost a third of former military personnel don’t have jobs that match their skills.
Several factors place most veterans at a disadvantage. These include post-traumatic stress disorder and a lack of family and social support networks. Likewise, military skills don’t always translate easily into jobs outside the service. These obstacles and struggles of veterans motivated Vets2Success Founder Bryan Jacobs to take action.
Programs to Help Veterans Cultivate Their Skills
Vets2Success is a 12-week program that supports veteran reintegration. With food as the outlet, the main goal is to educate and empower veterans to find life-long careers. The initiative has three main divisions or branches: Vet2Chef, Vet2Baker, and Vet2Brew. Each discipline teaches practical techniques in cooking, baking, and brewing.
Since it started, Vets2Success has been changing the lives of many homeless and displaced veterans. Bold Business Associate publisher John R. Miles interviewed chef and founder Bryan Jacobs to find out more about how the organization is making a difference.
John R. Miles: What challenges did you face during the initial stages of running Vets2Success?
Bryan Jacobs: The first major hurdle was dealing with my brother’s suicide, this was the major factor in creating the Vet2Chef model. His loss has fueled the vision and has been such a motivating purpose in order for no other family to face the hurt and pain ours had when we lost him.
The challenges I faced once starting Vets2success were so many. My biggest challenge was that I had never even run a nonprofit before. I did not even understand the definition, nor the amount of work it would actually take. I soon came to realize that running a nonprofit is much like running a business. Like starting any company, you need capital, but with our organization people are in our capital, and we are not in the business of selling veterans, so how was I going to make revenues, because all I want to do was help and change lives.
Another major hurdle I did not expect was trusting people, it takes a special set of people to come forward and volunteer their time. It takes an even more special set of people to keep doing it for years. Finding the right people to help you grow an organization or company is one of the key ingredients in creating a complete recipe.
John R. Miles: How many graduates does Vets2Success have since the program started?
Bryan Jacobs: With our newest class graduating in March we will now have helped 47 veterans.
John R. Miles: What is the long-term goal of Vets2Success and how does it foster veteran support programs?
Bryan Jacobs: Our long-term goals in Vets2success are to have a sustainable revenue model that supports our programs, and should be helping veterans in every major city across the United States. We are also expanding into different trades, allowing for the model we have to help more veterans find a passion and purpose and what they love most. We also have restaurants in the works as well as expanding our farms.
John R. Miles: What makes veterans uniquely qualified to work in the food industry?
Bryan Jacobs: What’s amazing about veterans is that they already get what it takes to be in the foodservice industry. All veterans from all branches get this unique set of skills from their training that they don’t even realize they truly understand.
We all are trained on attention to detail, camaraderie, teamwork, functioning in chaos, brigade systems, and just have the willingness to serve. Understanding what it means to have come from nothing to something in the military is a very sensual skill set for a veteran to use my starting out in the world. Unfortunately getting out of the military we have to pay our dues again so to speak. Yes, this is hard and sometimes we see failure with it. However, the food I am creating is taking me all over the world and I can take the veterans we train as well.
John R. Miles: How many veterans are placed in jobs after completing the program?
Bryan Jacobs: We have a 100% placement rate in jobs. We mentor and guide the veteran to stay employed when faced with some of the biggest hurdles in the world. We understand that for veterans to do things by themselves seems almost impossible at times.
This is why Vets2Success exists – it’s to help our veteran brothers and sisters find a new purpose to serve in this world. Some have called it a new military.
I just like the fact that it helps veterans find a place where they actually belong.
John R. Miles: How can we encourage more veterans to participate in programs similar to Vets2Success?
Bryan Jacobs: The best way to help veterans find us and get involved is to just show them the path. They can follow the other veterans who have taken the steps in refocusing their lives through Vets2success. Our social media tells so many stories, every veteran has the ability to be more in this world. It takes the same courage they had to serve their country.
Now I am committed to helping them find a new purpose for that call to serve that still exist in their hearts. A new mission, a new purpose, continue to serve.
Programs to Help Veterans—Leveraging Underrated Talents
Initiatives like Vets2Success enable outstanding veterans to become high-performing employees. Such a fact can inspire business leaders to hire more veterans not only out of gratitude. They actually have a lot to gain from our heroes. When companies invest in veteran employment, they gain motivated and leadership-inclined team members. This factor can help their business prosper in so many ways.
Many veterans have gone on to inspire and recruit other veterans themselves. This scenario creates a virtuous cycle. Indeed, we need to realize that every veteran deserves the chance to show that they are every bit as capable as their civilian-trained peers.