ATHENS, W.Va. – Concord University is partnering with the Department of Defense as an industry partner for its SkillBridge program. This program allows active-duty service members to spend the last six-months of their service commitment working for a civilian company, and Concord University is the first and currently only West Virginia partner.
Corporal VaShawn Wood, a Beckley native and Concord University graduate, is currently serving in the United States Marine Corps with MWSS-172 in Camp Foster, Japan, but for the next six months, he will be working as a Program Intern for Concord University’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success (CEVSS). CEVSS provides a one-stop shop for student veterans, streamlining the various processes required from application to graduation.
“We had a seminar where they stressed the SkillBridge program. It’s an opportunity for you to get out early. Most of the SkillBridge options are trades, but I was like, ‘I’ve got my degree now. How about I reach out to social work companies,’”Corporal VaShawn Wood
His wife suggested reaching out to Concord, so he did, and Dr. George Williams, CU’s Veterans Advocate, was eager to make the opportunity happen.
“The SkillBridge program offers a unique opportunity for everyone involved to benefit. Service members gain valuable experience in the workforce and a much easier transition. Concord gets to be a part of that process while at the same time gaining valuable insight into the current state of the military climate. Our veterans will benefit from the knowledge we gain from these service members. It’s truly a win for everyone.”Dr. George Williams
For the past month, Corporal Wood has been researching other veteran friendly institutions to see how Concord can better serve that population. He’s also reached out to veterans on campus, inviting them to get involved and take advantage of what CEVSS has to offer.
“It’s been great. It’s a huge transition coming from a place where everything is yelling and loud…I come back here and it’s relaxing and can almost be too quiet. People are respectful and you see more smiles than frowns, which is a great vibe,” Corporal Wood said.
Kesha Nealen, program coordinator for CEVSS, says the SkillBridge program is a great way to teach interns valuable job skills while also helping active-duty service members readapt to civilian life, which is much less structured and rigorous than military life.
“I am very much enjoying having VaShawn this semester…he’s a great help to me and Josea Smith (our GA) and I feel like we make a great team. It’s also good for me to be able to get suggestions from VaShawn on things that we can do at CU to improve the experience of our student veterans.”Kesha Nealen
As an intern, VaShawn will have an opportunity to work on developing a resume and references to help him search for permanent employment after his time with the USMC is complete.
“Even if this opportunity for the internship sets me up to do something more with social work in another company, that’s beautiful. It’s what I want to do,” said Corporal Wood. “I want to thank President Kendra Boggess, Dr. Williams, Dr. Sarah Beasley, Dr. Sheila Womack, and everyone who made this opportunity possible. Being here is a great opportunity and I love Concord.”
“VaShawn has certainly made an impact on our Veterans programs so far, and we hope to continue improving our services with help from him as well as future Skill Bridge Participants,”Dr. George Williams
Concord University currently offers SkillBridge in two areas: CEVSS Intern and an internship with CU’s maintenance in plumbing. Dr. Williams says there are several other opportunities in the process of being approved by the DoD.
For more information on Concord University’s veteran services, visit concord.edu/veterans.
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