KILLEEN — Friends and families gathered to congratulate 39 service members who graduated the Hiring Our Heroes corporate fellowship program during a ceremony Thursday at Workforce Solutions of Central Texas in Killeen.

The Hiring Our Heroes 12-week corporate fellowship program provides transitioning service members with professional training and hands-on experience in the civilian workforce.

The program, open to all branches of service and military spouses, serves as a bridge between the military community and potential employers.

“There is usually about an 85 percent placement rate of those who participated in the program,” said Stefanie Watson, Fort Hood’s corporate fellowship program manager. “And for those who did not receive a job offer, at least they are networked by their host employers.”

During the graduation, keynote speaker retired Army Maj. Gen. Kendall Cox, chief operating officer of workforce services at Workforce Solutions of Central Texas, shared some thoughts about the graduates.

“These individuals bring passion to the workforce,” said Cox. “And this program offers you and your families unique opportunity.”

The program offers transitioning veterans the opportunity to work with a potential employer while still having the safety net of being in the military.

For Claudia Barros, a retired Army first sergeant, the program proved to be helpful when she graduated from a previous cohort. Now, as the senior program manager for the VETTED Foundation, a non-profit organization, she is helping transitioning veterans.

“We assist veterans through their transition by providing personal transition experience and best practices to help them succeed,” Barros said.

Barros had two service members who graduated the Hiring Our Heroes cohort.

The program also helps service members build confidence to enter the civilian sector.

“The Navy was all I knew,” said Eric Chavarria, a former Navy recruiter in Harker Heights. “I enlisted when I was 18 and I was scared to make the transition. It was the fear of the unknown.”

Chavarria was hired by the CBRE Group Inc. as the regional facilities manager for J.C. Penney Co.

“I tried to network and get a job on my own, but it didn’t work out,” Chavarria said. “To have a program that allows you to get face to face with the corporate world is priceless.

The next Hiring Our Heroes cohort is in August. Fort Hood was the first Hiring Our Heroes corporate fellowship site and has run a total of nine cohorts since August 2015 while closely partnering with Workforce Solutions of Central Texas and Soldier For Life.

For more information about Hiring Our Heroes, log on to the Hiring Our Heroes website at www.hiringourheroes.org/fellowships.

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