Disabled veterans training program moves into its own WestGate Tech Park building in Greene County

Thursday, June 10, 2010
Submitted photo Cutting the ribbon for the Crane Learning and Employment Center (CLEC) during grand opening ceremony Wednesday were from left: DeEtt Pershing (CLEC Admin Officer), Vicki Baker (CLEC Director -- Crane), Ken Williams (CLEC Director -- Indianapolis), Ken Gremore (WestGate Authority-Greene County), Capt. Charles LaSota (NSWC Crane Commanding Officer), Jim Schonberger (CLEC Executive Director), Richard Cottrell (WestGate Authority -- Daviess County), Kent Parisian (President WestGate Authority), Loogootee Mayor Don Bowling (WestGate Authority) -- Martin County), Larry McRoberts (NSWC Crane Director of Veterans Programs) and Erika Carnes (CLEC Services Coordinator).

The first official tenant in the Greene County sector of the WestGate Technology Park near Crane Village conducted a grand opening ceremony Wednesday.

The Crane Learning and Employment Center (CLEC) is now located in the former MLE Building at 7838 S. WestGate Road. The building was constructed in 2008 for the Bloomfield-based defense contractor, but was never previously occupied.

In January 2008, the Crane Learning and Employment Center created a pilot program in association with the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane to help re-train disabled veterans for the workforce.

The two-year pilot, originally located in class/office space provided by URS Corporation (formerly EG & G) in WestGate Tech Park, near Crane Village, was designed to assist with job placement of military veterans who had service-connected disabilities and were in need of vocational rehabilitation to achieve their career goals.

Funding for the program has come from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the McCormick Foundation of Chicago.

The program has been successful and drawn the attention of high-ranking Naval officials.

"The program surpassed its initial goals and has already assisted about 60 veterans and their family adjust to civilian life. CLEC anticipates providing skills development and re-entry services to 200 disabled veterans in the next phase of the pilot program," according to Jim Schonberger, CLEC's executive director. "We are both surprised and pleased that we have been able to contact, evaluate and accept so many participants in such a short time. However, we still have much more to do."

Schonberger said the project is now ready to expand.

The two-year Phase 2 expansion of the project started in January.

The program has employed four people at the Crane site and another two at an office in Indianapolis that opened in March.

One of the objectives of the second part of the project is to expand what they are doing at Crane and continuing to work with the Naval Surface Warfare Center and also bringing on Crane Army Ammunition Activity, Naval Support Activity Crane, the Fleet Industrial Supply Center and the other base tenants along with the contractors located at the WestGate Tech Park.

Other goals will be to expand employment opportunities in the Indianapolis area and a nationwide expansion among the U.S. Navy.

"The Naval Sea Systems Command -- Crane's parent activity -- have made the decision that they want to clone or replicate what we are doing at Crane and have it at additional locations around the country," Schonberger stated.

Greene County representative on the WestGate Authority Board Ken Gremore, of rural Bloomfield, attended the ceremony.

"It's good to get someone in that building and this is a wonderful program," Gremore commented. "This has really turned out great for the veterans and their families.

"We do the Reality Store program for the kids (in Greene County). This is kind of like Reality School for the adult veterans."

The pilot utilized the Student Educational Employment Program at Crane Naval Station -- a year-round program in which students may work full-time, part-time, or alternate work periods with periods at school.

Participants receive individualized attention from CLEC staff in order to address needs and determine a beneficial course of action.

The goals of CLEC are:

* Assess the workforce preparation needs of each veteran.

* Bring groups of veterans to a Center where multiple organizations work together to provide comprehensive services.

* Create small groups of trainees among the participants to help support each other through the training program.

* Provide unified case management for participants.

* Provide family support services.

* Offer customized career education programs.

* Supply job matching services for each participant.

In mid-March, CLEC expanded its efforts to Indianapolis, co-located with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).

The Indianapolis CLEC expansion will continue existing partnerships with Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Veterans Administration, and Department of Labor and expand available opportunities with the addition of private corporate partners.

One of the employers currently placing CLEC applicants is the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) located at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis.

The CLEC Indianapolis Office is located at 2002 South Holt Rd, Building 8.

To contact CLEC write to P.O. Box 216, Crane, Ind., 47522 or call toll Free at 877-528-2612 or visit the website at www.clecvets.org .

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