Spectrum job program for vets expanding

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Spectrum Health program that puts veterans back to work is taking a huge leap forward.

The Veteran Explorers pilot program put all four of its participants into fulltime jobs. With such a successful outcome, the program is being expanded to 60 positions.

Now, Spectrum is looking for more veterans that need a job.

After years in the military, it can be difficult for veterans to transition back into civilian life.

“We’re looking for opportunity,” Veteran Explorer graduate Hugh Lehigh said. “Just give us the opportunity and we’ll prove our value.”

Lehigh now works at Priority Health in Grand Rapids. But it wasn’t easy bridging the gap.

He was a Russian linguist during the Cold War and spend years overseas working for the U.S. Army. When he and his wife relocated from Seattle to West Michigan, Lehigh found himself searching for work. For two years, he came up empty.

“Maybe two interviews at most and maybe a couple of phone interviews, but nothing came to fruition,” Lehigh said.

But then he found out about the pilot Veteran Explorers internship program.

“A lot of our veterans were having trouble articulating their military experience into the private sector,” LeMark Payne of Spectrum Health Diversity and Inclusion said.

Payne heads up Veteran Explorers and said it has been a huge success.

That’s why Spectrum is expanding the pilot from four people to 60 at two different locations, offering vets experience in several healthcare settings.

“So even if we have them working in the pharmacy and ultimately they end up in a different department, those skills that they learn in that department — the interaction some of those employability skills, if you will — those are transferable to any employment opportunity,” Payne said.

Those skills include interview techniques and resume writing — things Lehigh says are critical.

“Veterans have a difficult time being able to sell themselves to market themselves because in many ways, they have specific positions within the service. But we’re all trained as service members to be adaptable and flexible to our environment. And what better asset do employers want than employees who are adaptable and flexible in the workplace?” Lehigh said.

Veteran Explorers intern candidates can apply until the end of January. Hours are flexible.

Contact the Spectrum Health Veteran Explorers Program: 616.397.1760

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