English language initiative aims to help Ukrainian combat veterans enter civilian life
About the author: Tetyana Shea is President of the People of Ukraine Foundation. For further information please email the Foundation via people.of.ukraine@verizon.net

Seven years since the outbreak of hostilities with Russia, Ukraine is still coming to terms with the implications of a conflict that has left its mark on many different aspects of contemporary Ukrainian society. One of the most immediate challenges is meeting the medical, psychological, and material needs of a generation of veterans with representatives in virtually every city, town and village across the country.

Ukrainian military veterans transitioning into civilian life often face many difficulties. Research shows that veterans who had an emotionally traumatic experience while serving or those who suffered a serious service-related injury can face particularly significant challenges as they attempt to reintegrate and reengage.

While military service provides veterans with countless skills and opportunities to build their abilities, figuring out how to translate these into profitable employment in civilian life can be a complex and daunting task. For many veterans, the transition process could be improved by focusing and developing broader life skills.

The US non-governmental organization “People of Ukraine” is attempting to tackle this issue with its “Hire Military Veterans of Ukraine Initiative.” The goal of this initiative is to empower Ukrainian military veterans and their spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce, while at the same time recognizing their distinguished contribution to a free and prosperous Ukraine.

Why are these Ukrainian military veterans of value to prospective employers? There are many widely recognized reasons. Ukraine’s veterans often excel at leadership and teamwork. Military experience produces individuals who work to earn the respect of their peers and understand how to bring people together to pursue common goals. They know how to lead by example as well as through direction, delegation, motivation, and inspiration.

They also often have a range of transferable talents and knowledge. Veterans typically have well developed problem-solving skills and a demonstrated ability to quickly learn new skills and concepts. They offer integrity and understand the importance of accountability in the workplace. In addition to dealing successfully with the standard issues of personal growth, many Ukrainian veterans have also triumphed over great adversity.

While the Ukrainian government provides some benefits for the country’s military veterans, the state does not typically help develop broader life skills such as English language proficiency and basic computer literacy. However, these tools can significantly improve employment prospects.

Because many veterans transition back into the civilian workforce between the ages of 30 to 40, they must acquire or improve their professional qualifications and skills in order to compete successfully on the local job market. With this in mind, the People of Ukraine Foundation has been providing an English language learning program for Ukrainian military veterans since September 2019 using the web-based video conferencing tool Zoom.

Each course duration is 20 weeks, which includes 40 lessons. Lessons are held twice a week, with each lesson including 45 minutes of direct instruction. Education materials are professionally developed, designed, and organized with eye-catching presentation slides for this unique training audience. During each class, additional materials are integrated such as videos, audio books, effective language learning applications, internet programs, and a range of visual tools. Lessons include creative dialogues and various genres of reading materials along with an additional focus on stimulating publications, idioms, and quotes.

Now in its second year, this tailored English language learning program continues to see an increase in participants. The initiative aims to improve participant communication skills and English language knowledge in order to facilitate their successful transition to civilian careers.

In addition to the English language component, the program has also demonstrated positive results beyond language skills. Many participants report developing greater confidence and poise. Veterans also say the course helps them to better understand the specific requirements to move forward in their transitions to civilian life. Furthermore, the participant network created over “Zoom” facilitates a sense of community that some veterans lack after completing their service.

This year, our English Language Program included 32 military veterans and family members. Some participants had physical disabilities and one was registered blind. Despite these challenges, all proved to be very active, capable, resilient, hardworking and focused people who believe that life continues after demanding military service. The program they completed included resume-building assistance in English, language completion certificates, and advocacy for employment.

With tens of thousands of Ukrainians leaving military service and seeking to move on with the next stage of their lives, this program is currently in high demand throughout the combat veteran community. There is therefore an urgent need for increased financial support so that it can be expanded to meet demand. More professional language instructors are needed to assist as well as volunteers for conversational practice.

Another important program under development is “Basic Computer Skills for Military Veterans and Families of Ukraine.” As the name suggests, this program aims to develop and improve basic computer literacy among Ukrainian military veterans. These new skills have a range of direct applications and everyday uses as well facilitating resume-building and enabling second careers in an office setting.

The foundation seeks support from employers who are interested in hiring deserving veterans. We also welcome sponsors interested in helping to broaden the English language program and support the launch of the new computer literacy initiative.


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