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Free Local Program Curbs Military Unemployment

Boots in Business helps Marines and their spouses prepare for civilian employment through job shadowing and mentoring opportunities.

If it wasn’t for a new transitioning program, former Camp Pendleton Marine Charles Blake would be studying to be a nurse instead of a respiratory therapist.

Blake, 24, participated in , a free program that helps Marines and their spouses prepare for civilian employment through job shadowing and mentoring opportunities.

“If I didn’t go through the program, I would have went through nursing school, graduated and then realized I didn’t like the job and wanted to do respiratory therapy,” said Blake, who transitioned out of the military in October 2010. “I would have wasted four years of schooling and my entire GI Bill for something I didn’t really want to do.”

In the summer of 2010, Blake participated in the pilot program of Boots in Business, which Camp Pendleton and the officially launched on Nov. 1. For 30 days, Blake shadowed surgeons, nurses, emergency medical technicians, therapists and assistants at

“I got to see every job within the hospital,” Blake said. “I got to see what the actual daily job is, ask questions and figure out what is required to get to that spot.”

Prior to participating in the program, Blake believed he would go into nursing after he was discharged from active duty. But after observing respiratory therapists at the hospital, he decided on a different career path.

“I liked the job, the environment and the people that I worked with,” he said. “With nursing and a lot of different jobs, you’re kind of attached to a certain department at the hospital. With respiratory therapy, you roam around and work at all the different sections in the hospital, and I liked that.”

Blake, who plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in health care management after he completes his program at Concorde Career College, said programs like Boots in Business are essential for military men and women. The unemployment rate is 22 percent for veterans under age 25, and at Camp Pendleton, more than 8,000 military personnel leave active duty each year.

Madonna May, the program manager for Boots in Business, said the newly launched program is designed for people like Blake.

“His experience is the true essence of the program,” May said. “We really want to help people navigate their way in their careers and make smart career decisions. The program really worked to his advantage. It saved him a lot of time, money and regrets.”

Currently, 30 companies — most of which are located in North County San Diego — have signed up to participate in the program, May said. There are job shadowing opportunities in a variety of career fields, including advertising, automotive, business, education, finance, food service, government, health care, hospitality, manufacturing, real estate, telecommunication and transportation.

Participants go through an orientation, have their resumes reviewed, participate in mock interviews and learn about the education and skills needed for particular jobs.

“These companies are here to share their expertise and offer mentors to these young men and women,” May said.

While Boots in Business provides an opportunity for Marines and their spouses to explore civilian careers, May noted that the program also helps employers recognize military experience and skills.

“It is a very rewarding way to help civilian employers really understand the specialized training and the skills that military members bring,” May said. “It’s key they get exposed to the quality in education and skills that these men and women have.”

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