Each day approximately 550 American heroes transition from their military lives and enter the civilian world as veterans. Based on California’s year-end unemployment rate in 2014, we can estimate that roughly 16,000 veterans are unemployed in San Diego County alone. These are the men and women who we have trusted to protect us and our families. These brave soldiers have dedicated each day of their lives to sacrificing their comfort for the freedom of our country and some are now struggling to find employment.
The Oceanside Fire Department and many residents of San Diego County have recognized the need to help these former soldiers during this transition. Together we have created a program which highlights service strengths. The program is known as Military in Transition Firefighter for a Day (MITFFAD). Through this program, veterans are given the opportunity to network with business professionals while having fun collaborating in a team building environment. Executives from local businesses suit up and join transitioning soldiers of the United States military to fight simulated fires under the guidance of the Oceanside Fire Department at their local training facility. On October 15, the MIT Firefighter for a Day event highlighted women. Kelly Nicholls, senior vice president of Lee & Associates – North San Diego County and co-program coordinator of MIT Firefighter for a Day, joined a handful of other business professionals, veterans, and active servicewomen in a day of teamwork and fun. Business professional were given the opportunity to meet women who have made monumental impacts on our society and employment opportunities were discovered and friendships and business relationships were made. Viasat, Hydranautics, Nikkiso America, New Horizon Learning Centers are just a few of the many supporters that participated in 2016.
Nicholls and co-program coordinator, Sallay Kim sat down with a few of the participants to get feedback on the event:
Question: “What did you enjoy most about the program?”
Answer 1: “The opportunity to meet these amazing women military members and veterans, and have such a unique and bonding experience with them as Firefighters for a Day.”
Answer 2: “I enjoyed being able to connect with influential executives as well as top personnel in the field that I’m pursuing as my own career. Although they may not be the ones to hire me they have opened up the door to give help and guidance if I ever need it and offer a good word to other agencies who may hire. I enjoyed personally, seeing these business executives and others who aren’t military, learn to just trust us, without knowing them at all, they trusted the firefighters and their team that they could make it up the ladder, through the house etc. I hope that leads them to hire more veterans in the future knowing we get the job done and we’ll take care of anything we’re assigned to.”
Answer 3: “Getting to experience what Firefighters do and meeting new people.”
Question: “What did you dislike about the program?”
Answer 1: “I did not dislike anything, however I probably took on more than my back could handle during the fire rescue exercise. It might be good to be more specific in the orientation as to what is involved in each of the experiences and recommendations for how you can modify but still participate.”
Answer 2: “It didn’t last all day (insert smiley face) but there wasn’t anything I didn’t dislike.”
Nicholls added, “Military in Transition Firefighter for a Day is a unique networking association, creating a visceral and very personal connection with our military and our executives for a day. If you are in a position to influence hiring, I invite you to check out our website at www.mitffad.squarespace.com”