Jon Sowards – Supporting Veterans in Bowling Green and Beyond

by | Oct 2023

SOMETIMES, POSITIVE change in a community starts with helping just one person. The South Central Workforce Development Board’s new program, Kentucky Vet Connect, is a perfect example of this, as it works alongside service members at Fort Campbell and beyond, helping them transition to a civilian workforce after retiring or exiting the military.

The essence of the program is connecting veterans to employers in the Bowling Green area. Service members who get involved receive a profile and social media presence that Kentucky Vet Connect sends to employers in the area, and the employers reach out to connect with anyone they are interested in.

A program like this is essential, said development board CEO Jon Sowards, because many soldiers have been in the military since they were 18, and transitioning to a civilian workforce can be difficult and scary.

“These folks have all raised the right hand and given part of their lives to serving this country, and we owe it to them to help them transition back into civilian life,” Sowards said. “We want to play our part and make sure that the employment aspect of that transition is as smooth as possible.”

Photographed by Amanda Guy.

Sowards himself is a veteran, as is Michael Dailey, a member of the team stationed at Fort Campbell. Dailey said part of the job for him is paying forward the blessings he’s had because he didn’t have this kind of support when he retired.

“It was a little difficult for me to get back into the workforce and understand what it takes to transition from military to civilian work,” Dailey said. “I’d rather see a soldier not struggle like I had to at one point in life.”

Dailey is the one who sits down with transitioning soldiers, helping them with their resumes, interviews, or any questions they might have. At his office, they can upload information about themselves and any resume up to six months before their end date, so Kentucky Vet Connect can showcase them as best as possible.

“We’re a one-stop shop for a transitioning soldier,” Dailey said. “It’s a fairly simple, quick, and easy process.”

Once their information and resume are ready, the development board vice president, Leslie Witty, creates each client’s profile. The profile shows civilian employers how highly qualified many soldiers are, as they often have degrees and certificate training alongside their varied skill sets. Witty was the one who came up with the program at the beginning and said the process was so simple to encourage both employers and veterans to get involved.

Photographed by Amanda Guy.

“They can start learning about career opportunities in this region because there are so many. And it’s such a good place to live, [and] such a good place to work,” Witty said.

Kentucky Vet Connect began this year, but it has already started to make a difference in people’s lives. There is a tremendous benefit to the veterans coming to the Bowling Green area.

“It’s going to help our employers; it’s going to help our community,” Sowards 

said. “We have thousands of job openings that need to be filled, and we want to tap into these very talented, exceptional service members.” 

As part of a workforce development board, Kentucky Vet Connect has plenty of opportunities and connections available, and that number is continually growing. Witty said they hope to serve veterans across Kentucky long term, not just those coming from Fort Campbell. 

“We were very intentional with calling it Kentucky Vet Connect, not just South Central Kentucky Vet Connect, because we think there’s potential to do this across the state,” Witty said. “There’s no reason why we couldn’t at some point.” GN 

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