A group of Kansas City colleges and veterans advocates are working together to create an easy gateway to nonprofit education, apprenticeship and entrepreneur opportunities in the Kansas City region.
Local stakeholders in the Veterans Learning Hub, as the program is known, came together July 9 on the Penn Valley campus of Metropolitan Community College. Representatives of MCC, Western Governors University, Johnson County Community College, Missouri Western State University, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Red Cross and the Builders’ Association were among the attendees.
Kansas City is one of 25 cities across the country to get a Veterans Learning Hub.
This program is part of the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative, officially announced in May, led by the Department of Veterans Affairs to promote economic success for veterans in partnership with local communities. The initiative falls under Secretary Robert McDonald’s department-wide transformation called MyVA, which is dedicated to putting veterans at the center of everything the VA does.
The goal of the national campaign is to improve economic outcomes for veterans by bringing together local and national partners to coordinate services at the local level. The campaign includes a VA economic liaison in each community, who will expand and encourage collaboration among private and public organizations that offer resources related to education, training and employment.
Through strategic partnerships, and by offering veterans innovative forms of learning and employment opportunities, partners will help veterans gain competitive career skills and knowledge in locally in-demand fields.
Christopher Shove, the VA’s economic liaison in Kansas City, says 6,000 active-duty military personnel are expected to return to the Kansas City area within the next six months. The Veterans Learning Hub should provide one-stop shopping for veterans seeking educational or career opportunities.
In addition to matching veterans with those economic opportunities, a key goal of the program is to increase the number of veterans taking advantage of the GI Bill.
Several area colleges, including MCC, have services in place to help veterans. Carl Alexander, program director for Veterans Upward Bound at MCC, said his office assists veterans in making the transition to post-secondary education. Services include career testing, tutoring, and assistance in applying for military benefits.
Whether a veteran is having problems with housing or education or even getting a haircut, MCC’s Veterans Upward Bound can help, Alexander says. And those services are free.
Scott Wagner, Kansas City First District at-large councilman, told the group that the city’s efforts to help veterans include participation in the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, a national initiative. Wagner calls the Veterans Learning Hub “another example of the Kansas City Spirit rising up to help our area veterans.”
Other Learning Hub partners in the Kansas City area include the University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas State University, Park University, the Kauffman Foundation and Coursera.