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Free training course makes working STARs of spouses

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

In the working world your value is based on what you have to offer, and the stronger your skill set, the greater the chance of gaining a better job. Couple skill with good a work ethic and a high degree of personal responsibility, common traits among military families, and you have the ideal employee.

Students bring their good habits with them to the five-week Spouses Trained and Ready program. They leave after five weeks with a great set of office and computer skills to go along with them.

Started in 1999 by the Family Support Center, some 300 people have been through the STAR course, which is free to MacDill personnel and family. The course covers the gamut from how to dress and prepare a resume, to the nuts and bolts of using the latest computer software and hardware, team dynamics and advanced problem solving.

"It's particularly valuable for people who haven't worked in a long time," said Irma Avery, a counselor at Family Support who organizes the course. "If you have been out of the workforce and need brush up on the latest then this is a good thing."

The class is limited to 15 and currently is being held at Learey Technical Institute in Tampa.

The course has helped many military spouses land lucrative jobs over the years, she said, including several with the City of Tampa and other municipalities, including Hillsborough County. In fact, the course runs in partnership with the county, following county school system guidelines. Graduates even have the opportunity to try out for county jobs, working for six months without benefits and then given a civil service test to secure jobs with full benefits.

In addition to government, private businesses in the area also like the labor pool that comes from MacDill. Even though it is known most military spouses will be in the area no longer than about three years on average, companies court them because they tend to be "good, responsible workers," said Mrs. Avery.

"They know they won't have them as employees very long but they still want them," said Mrs. Avery. "They see the value."

Often times students are the wives of colonel's who may be looking to prep themselves for the job market. And sometimes the colonels themselves take a seat. They may be boning up on the latest software to help them on the job or preparing for a civilian job themselves.

Marrisa Grubbs said now that her children are grown, she wants to go back to work in an office setting. She uses a computer and software at home, but wanted to be sure she is up to speed on the latest.

"In an office they expect you to know more and be able to use the latest programs," she said. "I wanted to get updated and get more knowledge."

Part of the value of a STAR diploma is that course is rigid and much is expected of the students, who are drilled on all aspects of the material and in the end must give a PowerPoint presentation before the class. Rules are strict and if three classes are missed, there is no diploma.

"We take it seriously," said Mrs. Avery.

Barbara Liptak, who recently arrived in the U.S. from Poland, said she was an office worker in Warsaw but wanted to familiarize herself with equipment, software and procedures in the U.S. before venturing into the job market.

"I worked in offices before, but I would like to know more about working in offices here," she said."

The value of the STAR course is $300, but the cost is covered by money provided to Family Services by the Air Force Aid Society, which allows eligible MacDill students to enroll at no cost.



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