Pathfinder program helps service members get civilian jobs

Duke Energy grant helps USO program in North Carolina support veterans entering workforce

To fellow service members who are planning to enter the civilian workforce, Bashone Johnson has some advice: This is not the time to hurry up and wait.

Johnson, who just retired from the Army as a sergeant first class, landed a job through planning and help from the United Service Organizations (US0) Pathfinder Transition Program. “Plan early,” he said. “Don’t plan late.”

Bashone and Shelley Johnson

That includes contacting a Pathfinder transition specialist a year before you leave service. He went through the military’s Transition Assistance Program but credits Pathfinder with the support that changed his assumptions and helped his family decide what job opportunities and locations to pursue.

Duke Energy gave a $20,000 grant to the USO of North Carolina to support service members and their families as they transition to civilian life. The USO provides programs, entertainment and services at more than 250 USO locations worldwide for service members and their families. The organization works to keep service members and their families, homes and country connected.

The grant will be used to connect service members and spouses with energy and trade positions, as well as coaching. About 2,000 Duke Energy employees – in a range of jobs – are veterans. The company recruits veterans because they have the training, technical skills, adaptability and leadership qualities that transfer to business.

The company also participates in the Department of Defense's SkillBridge program, which promotes job training and internships, and Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS), which guarantees soldiers a job interview after their service.

Bashone Johnson retired from the Army after 22 years.

What attracts former military to Duke Energy? “Service members,” said Barry Morris, USO southeast regional communications manager, “see value in an organization that does its best to serve others.”

Pathfinder is a voluntary program that started in 2017. It has served 6,216 clients nationwide in 2020, including 243 in North Carolina, said LaTonia Mckoy, USO’s Pathfinder site manager in North Carolina. About 15 percent of their clients are married to service members.

They work with a Pathfinder transition specialist to get help with information on employment, education, VA benefits, interview skills, resumes, cover letters and jobs websites.

While the pandemic has slowed the transition for many, Mckoy said, Duke Energy has been recruiting and scheduled job expos at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Duke Energy recruiter Bennie Anderson participated in the Fort Bragg Fall 2020 Virtual Transition Expo in October to meet transitioning service members, spouses and veterans.

Mckoy encourages transitioning service members to start planning early, too.  

“Transition should be your mission,” she said. “Are you prepared for where you are stepping next? Use programs like Pathfinder to help you get there.”

Johnson landed a job as a service delivery consultant at Bank of America in Charlotte. The Pathfinder Transition Program made such an impact on him that he has recommended the program to about 10 others.

“I cannot give enough kudos to the program,” he said. “Without that program, I would not have been able to create my resume or get the job that I have now.”

Jobs for veterans

In addition to the USO Pathfinder program in North Carolina, Duke Energy supports other programs for service members including:

Upstate Warrior Solutions in South Carolina, Easterseals Military & Veteran Services in Greater Cincinnati, United States Special Operations Command Warrior Care Internship Program and the Center for Energy Workforce Development Troops to Energy Jobs program, which connects veterans to energy careers.

To learn more about the Pathfinder Transition Program, click here.