Tag Archives: employment

Employment and the National Guard

September 17, 2018 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Rare is the job today with simple, fixed 9-to-5 hours and weekends off. Many jobs require a laptop, and it is usually a given that the machine will be joining its owner on off-hours and weekends. It is part of modern work life.  

However, for the approximate 4,500 members of the Nebraska National Guard, this reality comes with its own dilemma: How can you be two places at once when your National Guard duty calls?

The answer is simple: you cannot. One weekend a month and two weeks a year, service members are required to attend training (or “drill”) at the National Guard. Most employers are familiar with the “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” obligation. But that obligation is due to increase. In February, the military announced their Army Guard 4.0 initiative, which focuses on readiness for fast deployment. The new model calls for an increase in the number of days spent in training, up to 60 days per year, starting with armored and Stryker brigade combat teams. This change in training philosophy will eventually affect many, if not all, units.

Additionally, National Guard members have their own responsibilities to their employers. They must give their employer written or verbal notification before their deployment. The time requirements for this can vary, as deployments are sometimes sudden. When a member returns from deployment, they must alert their employer of their intention to return to their job. If a deployment is between 31 to 180 days, National Guard members are given 14 days to reapply for their job after they return home. If their deployment is greater than 180 days, they are given 90 days to reapply for their job. 

And those who serve in the National Guard need outside jobs. The official National Guard website calculates that the highest ranking officer, with 20 years of service, can make $15,736.84 annually. The lowest ranking enlistee, with one year of service, can make $3,385.82 annually.

By law, employers have to accommodate their employees who serve in the National Guard. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which was signed into law in 1994, states that employers must allow National Guard members to serve their duty, and must not force them to resign from the National Guard. They cannot ask a Guard member to use their vacation time for a training session. Additionally, public employers must pay military differential pay. Private employers are not required to pay this. If a member is deployed, the employer must retain that person’s job when they return from their deployment. If they cannot give their job back to an employee, they must find a job that is similar to the one he or she left when they were called to duty. 

Many employers are familiar with the USERRA law, and comply. However, there are some exceptions. The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) reported that four cases in Nebraska were filed by Nebraska National Guard service members in the 2018 fiscal year. The four cases involved concerns over “military obligation discrimination.” 

These days, many companies produce long-range team projects as opposed to daily production work. The idea that someone might leave at a moment’s notice may make a team lead hesitate to put someone serving in the National Guard in charge of a project. But rest assured, help is available if this situation arises. A good source for employees in this instance is a staffing agency.

“What normally happens is we get a call for a project manager or something,” says Jim Taylor, franchise owner of Snelling Staffing in Omaha. “We’ll know if it’s a short term or not. It very well could be the reason why there’s an opening is that the person is overseas, but we don’t specifically ask why.”

Taylor’s employees at the staffing agency receive the request, find prospective employees from among their clients, and fill the request. 

William Harris is a lawyer at Berry Law Firm. He also acts as defense counsel for National Guard members. Harris has been in the military for almost 20 years, serving four years of active duty in the Air Force, and 15 years as a National Guard member. Even with a lofty legal title, Harris isn’t immune to the “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” requirement. Harris says his biggest challenge is juggling the demands of both jobs. 

“Even though we’re part-time soldiers, there’s certain rules and regulations you still have to abide by,” Harris says. 

In addition to his civilian lawyer title, Harris is also a Justice Advocate General (JAG) officer. National Guard members can consult their local JAG officers on legal issues, free of charge. In his 15 years with the National Guard, Harris says he’s only had to handle about three employment-related complaints. None of the complaints involved the loss of a job or denied promotion. Instead, the issues were mainly questions employers had about USERRA law. Harris says most of the protections within USERRA are known to employers. 

“It’s pretty user-friendly if you read it,” Harris says. 

This means the temporary employee hired to help for six months will most likely be moving on afterwards. That doesn’t necessarily mean a temporary employee will not be a great employee.

“I’ve owned this franchise for seven or eight years, and I was under the impression that a small percentage of people would want to do temporary assignments,” Taylor says. “That’s not true. There’s a whole range of people wanting to do temp work, for a variety of reasons: It’s good exposure. Some people get bored early, so they want a different adventure every six months. We have some clients that have been in the temp world for 10 years.”

There are instances when a temp employee may be a better worker than the full-time employee, but the employer cannot simply pass over the National Guard member once they return.

However, while USERRA protects National Guard members by ensuring their civilian job will be available to them when they return, it doesn’t entirely guarantee their job. If a company undergoes a restructuring where certain positions are eliminated, or a job is lost to automation, companies are still in their legal right to eliminate positions that may have National Guard members as employees. 

“If that type of job goes away, they can’t be forced to put them in a job that no longer exists,” Harris says.


Visit ne.ng.mil for more information on the Nebraska National Guard.

This article was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Giving Kids 
a ‘Tech-Up’

October 22, 2017 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

It’s almost impossible these days to gain employment without some level of technical aptitude and proficiency.

Being able to apply that technical knowledge on-the-job will continue to be required of future high school graduates and subsequent workers to better compete in the 21st century.

And as the most “plugged-in” generation ever, students now and future are eager to learn and apply what they’ve learned in simulated and real-life situations every day.

“Whether they go to college or into a highly-skilled certificate program like manufacturing, transportation, or health care after high school, we want to make them as ready as possible to be successful,” says Ken Spellman, career education coordinator with Omaha Public Schools. “Technology is everywhere and involved with every job in some capacity. We want them prepared to step into any role with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful.”

Through the OPS Career Education program, Spellman, along with certified nursing assistant instructor Tiffanie Wright, engage students to think beyond the classroom into future opportunities no matter if a four-year college education is in their future.

Because skilled labor positions require as much, if not more, specialized technological expertise, training and experience do not end with high school graduation.

If anything, they are just beginning, and OPS wants to make sure its students are on the right track when they do don their caps and gowns and pick up their diplomas.

“Technology is constantly changing, and while CNA job training still tends to be heavily on the physical side (lifting, cleaning, etc.), as a prelude to a career in nursing or health care, being able to use the machines and software needed for patient care is equally, if not more, important,” Wright says.

“Six of the local colleges we work with require CNA certification as a stepping stone to get into nursing. CNAs and nurses are in incredibly high demand, so we want to make sure when our students graduate, they are prepared not only for their current roles but future opportunities.”

Similarly, the Westside School District empowers its students at all levels through its Center for Advanced Professional Studies, with its four strands funded by a Youth Career Connect Grant.

Using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as a basis, the four strands include architecture, health science, emerging technology, and business solutions. 

Dawn Nizzi, director of Westside’s CAPS, says the program not only prepares students for future technology in the workplace, but also encourages them to think and connect beyond the actual software and devices that they have had in their lives since they were little.

“We want them to realize that technology isn’t a guy in a basement surrounded by computers and monitors; we want them to realize that technology connects people from all professions and walks of life,” she says. “We don’t silo our students. It’s important that they know how to work and communicate together.

“We want them to leave with vision, and the ability to think critically and collaboratively. Part of being a CAPS is to instill an entrepreneurial mindset—to think innovatively. It’s bigger than just the application.”

Last year, a group of Westside students went to St. Louis to experience and observe a Hackathon, where teams from various schools come together to solve technology problems.

Not only did it put their technological skills to the test, but it also stretched their leadership and critical thinking capabilities. Students decided they would like to host something similar among Omaha’s school districts in the future.

In the Millard Public Schools, students are taught technological competencies at very young ages —starting in the elementary school years—with each step building toward making them more accomplished and ready once they reach high school.

Using One-to-One deployment (in which every student gets a computer for their personal and school use) the Millard Educational Program helps students meet the college and career readiness skills of citizenship, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity to better compete in the 21st century. By using technology, teachers will transform the way students learn by augmenting, modifying, and redefining instruction.

Whatever these future students’ career paths may take as they mature and learn, they will be prepared to not only use technology as it evolves but also work together, whether locally or internationally, to advance that technology even further.

“It’s not so much about the tools as much as it is about seeing students learn through enhanced teaching so they are prepared for the future,” says Ken Kingston Ed.D., Millard School District executive director of technology “We set out on a plan more than four years ago as part of our strategic planning process to enhance teaching and learning. Part of that process is providing choices for teachers and students and making sure they think and act creatively and critically, and can work with one another.”

Bottom line for all school districts in Metro Omaha is that students are more prepared than ever for their future pursuits—no matter what career path they take.

“We’re not only preparing our students, but we’re also preparing our teachers so they can give students the best guidance and instruction,” says Curtis Case Ed.D. Millard Public Schools director of digital learning “Not all teaching is about technology. We leave it up to our teachers to use as much as they want in their instruction. But we make sure that they understand how to use technology to best prepare students to use it as well.”

This article was printed in the Fall 2017 edition of Family Guide.

(from left) Curtis Case, Ed.D, & Kent Kingston, Ed.D

Underdogs and Frontrunners in the Omaha Mayoral Race

February 21, 2017 by
Photography by Christopher Geary photos by Bill Sitzmann, all others contributed

Running for the office of Omaha mayor seems surprisingly accessible for any registered voter age 25 or older who is an Omaha resident of six months or more: Pay a $100 filing fee, complete a notarized candidate filing form and a statement of financial interests form, and submit a petition signed by 1,000 registered Omaha voters.

As the March/April issue of Omaha Magazine went to press, 10 individuals had taken out paperwork from the Douglas County Election Commission (the first step to getting on the ballot in hopes of being elected to the nonpartisan office that pays $102,312 annually for a four-year term starting in June). But in the months before the election, only about half of the potential candidates had developed and promoted detailed campaign platforms through polished websites, social media channels, and savvy media relations efforts. Several of those receiving less pronounced media attention have articulated core issues that range from legalizing marijuana, to improving the lives of local lower- and middle-income families, to touting free speech.

Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian W. Kruse says it’s unlikely all 10 will make it to the ballot for the April 4 primary based on precedent: Although seven candidates qualified for the 2013 primary, there were just five in 2009, only two in both 2005 and 2001, and three in 1997. (The two candidates with the highest number of votes advance to the general election, May 9 this cycle.) Self-promotion isn’t the only challenge for potential candidates, Kruse says.

“Especially with the mayoral candidates, we do hear quite a bit how hard it is to get 1,000 signatures that are accepted. It takes work, you know?” he says. Some well-meaning signers are discovered during the painstaking verification process to not be registered to vote or not registered in the correct jurisdiction, he explains. Candidates are encouraged to obtain extra signatures and complete paperwork well before the March 3 filing deadline. If time allows, they can correct paperwork errors or omissions or even gather more signatures if they come up short or cut it close.

“We would feel terrible if someone turned theirs in on March 3 and they had 995 signatures, because there’s nothing they can do at that point,” he says. “In our office, we will certify to 110 percent. We try to turn them around pretty quickly; the mayor (incumbent Jean Stothert) turned her signatures in on a Wednesday, and we were done by Friday afternoon. Often candidates will call and check with us on how it’s going, and we’ll give them updates. We try to be as customer service-friendly as possible … We’re here to serve the voters and the citizens of Douglas County.”

Christopher Geary, a martial arts teacher/studio owner and former Marine, is a newcomer to the mayoral race. He and the current mayor were the first to meet the credentials needed to appear on the ballot, receiving confirmation from the commission Jan. 6.

 

“I feel that service to others is not only something people should do, but it’s an obligation we all should embrace. I have run for office before and I feel that now is the perfect time to serve the City of Omaha, which has been my home for three decades … Omaha is an awesome city with a fantastic history and people. The diversity of communities and how we come together in hard times is really inspiring,” Geary says. “I have a vision for Omaha that brings government, business, and citizens together to improve living conditions for everyone by increasing job opportunities, helping businesses grow and prosper, and provide training for those seeking employment.”

Geary has made the unusual decision to not accept campaign contributions. “I think a candidate for any office should be free and clear of anyone or any group that would try to manipulate them once they are in office,” he says.

He also will not participate in debates, he adds. “Political debates end up being personal attacks on one another and rarely stay on point. Candidates will only say what people want to hear with memorized speeches and can easily stump the other candidates with facts they don’t have access to. Voters that watch or listen to these debates will not receive the necessary information to make informed decisions regarding his or her candidate.”

Mayoral candidate Taylor Royal

Another mayoral hopeful, certified public accountant Taylor Royal, is entirely new to politics.

“I have always had the heart to serve the public and make my hometown better for everyone, but the urgency to run for mayor originated when I moved back to Omaha two years ago,” he says, explaining that he was impressed with the business climate and other opportunities in Dallas, where he lived for four years as he earned his master’s degree and launched his career.

“Moving back to Omaha in 2015 was a different story. The same old problems that plagued our city when I was growing up were still prevalent, and new problems were surfacing,” Royal says. “I want to be mayor of Omaha to create a more business-friendly and community-friendly Omaha. I believe my new vision for Omaha will join our community together to solve our challenges and make Omaha the place to be for families and businesses.”

Royal received early media attention for his proposal to build a football stadium and bring an NFL team to Omaha, but his platform also includes unlocking new sources of revenue, looking for strategic opportunities to outsource, improving street maintenance, and revitalizing North Omaha. Citizens have been receptive, he says.

“My campaign experience to date has been a confirmation of what I already knew about the people in Omaha,” he says. “Omaha is a city filled with people who display unmatched hospitality and incredible diversity, and my candidacy has received a warm welcome from the residents.”

Candidate Heath Mello, who comes into the mayoral race fresh from two terms in the Nebraska Legislature, says engagement is key to winning an election.

“Looking back, I was probably most surprised by how important it was to spend more time knocking on doors and meeting with voters than doing anything else. Spending quality time with people in their homes, churches, and senior centers proved to be so much more meaningful to me throughout the campaign than any speech, fundraiser, meeting, or parade,” he says, estimating that he knocked on more than 12,000 doors in his first race alone.

Engagement then transfers to successfully serving the public, he adds.

“I worked hard for eight years as a state senator to keep that kind of personal engagement through town halls, neighborhood roundtables, knocking on doors, and proactively connecting with neighbors,” he says. And he’s taking that approach through his bid for Omaha mayor with a platform that includes plans to reduce crime, improve city services, create jobs, and foster collaboration.

“From Belvedere to Deer Park, Blackstone to Elkhorn, and everywhere in between, I am continuing to knock on doors and visit with small businesses to learn more about how Omahans want to help shape our great city for the next 20 years and how we can collectively create a smarter, more innovative city.”

Incumbent Stothert emphasizes safety of Omaha’s citizens as her top priority in her bid for re-election. “There is no issue we work harder on than reducing crime and apprehending and prosecuting those who commit crimes. I am proud of our police department and our work with community partners to make Omaha a safer community.”

Her motivation for running again is simple: “I love my job, and it is a privilege to serve as mayor.” Stothert notes, however, that running for re-election has both advantages and challenges.

“During the past 3 1/2 years, we have provided leadership, accomplished priorities, and worked with partners on community projects. This experience provides me the opportunity to highlight what we have accomplished, something you can’t provide as a first-time candidate,” she says. On the other hand, “Four years ago, I could spend most my time campaigning by meeting voters throughout the city and visiting people in their homes. While I am doing that again during this election, I also know my work and commitments as mayor must come first. Even though I have less time to campaign, I believe the best politics is doing a good job so we work hard to make sure Omaha is on the right track.”

Information on the election process or candidates is readily available, Kruse says, and he’s hoping for a good turnout for both the primary and general elections with 182 polling places open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Visit votedouglascounty.com or call 402-444-VOTE to reach the Douglas County Election Commission for more information.

TEN MAYORAL HOPEFULS

As of press time, 10 prospective candidates had begun the paperwork process to enter the mayoral race. To appear on the ballot, they must obtain and file 1,000 signatures from registered voters who reside in Omaha by March 3. Contact information is based on Douglas County Election Commission public records and online information (listed alphabetically by surname).

Bernard Choping

  • Phone: 402-917-5149

Mark Elworth

  • Phone: 402-812-1600
  • E-mail: markelworthjr@aol.com
  • Twitter: @markjr4gov

Christopher Geary

  • Phone: 402-905-6865
  • Website: geary2017.com
  • E-mail: christophergeary@gmail.com

J.B. Medlock

  • Phone: 402-302-0000 and 402-213-2095

Heath Mello

  • Website: heathmello.com
  • E-mail: info@heathmello.com
  • Twitter: @heathmello

Ean Mikale

  • Website: mikaleformayor.com
  • Twitter: @mikaleformayor

Taylor Royal

  • Website: taylorjroyal.com
  • E-mail: royalformayor@gmail.com

Jean Stothert

  • Phone: 402-506-6623
    Website: jeanstothert.com
  • E-mail: info@jeanstothert.com
  • Twitter: @jean_stothert

Mort Sullivan

  • Website: mortsullivan.com
  • E-mail: mdsullivan@cisusa.info

Jerome Wallace

  • Phone: 314-495-0545

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

 

Job Search Advice

January 31, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The wage gap is closing, in large part due to women who are no longer satisfied with just a steady income.

Though Nebraska is often touted as a thriving job market for men and women alike, the state has earned a C-minus grade for employment and earnings of women from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and is ranked 31st in the nation—behind Iowa, Missouri, and most of the East Coast. Women in Nebraska are earning an average of 73.1 cents for every dollar made by men. While the wage gap is closing, at this rate of progress, Nebraska will not achieve equal pay for men and women until 2066.

However negative these statistics may seem, the job searching process for women is brighter today than it has ever been. The career search and application process is changing rapidly, and women learn at a fast pace. Thanks to the availability of resources to determine salaries of others in their prospective field, women are finding the process to be significantly less daunting and more hopeful.

When engaging in a job search, an activity that local résumé writer Bridget (Weide) Brooks says is now occurring close to every two to three years in an adult’s life, women are less commonly left to guess at how their salaries stack up to those of male counterparts in the same field or wonder about the dollar value of their unique skills.

Cindy Wagner

Cindy Wagner

Career coach Cindy Wagner finds that the biggest mistake women make in their job search is to underestimate their skills, or “undersell themselves.” Wagner works with women to discover skills that they tend to disregard. She looks for the unique, and often less quantifiable, talents of each individual. As she guides a client’s career search, she starts by helping people uncover what truly drives them to seek out a new career, the idea beyond a simple paycheck.

The wage gap is closing, in large part due to women who are no longer satisfied with just a steady income. As more and more women make their way into higher ranking positions within companies, potential employees are setting higher goals than previous generations—and achieving them. Motivation to not only get a job, but to be hired by a company where their passions and talents will be utilized, is increasingly enabling women to surpass competition in the job market.

Wagner’s next step is working with clients to develop a picture of what their ideal job would look like, factoring in their individual passions to create a fulfilling career concept. Then she helps with résumé, LinkedIn profiles, and other factors in her clients’ personal branding to make sure that the materials clearly and accurately reflect the value of the individual.

A common problem faced by many women trying to create their personal brand is accounting for time outside of the workforce, often spent caring for children or aging parents. Taking time off to care for children can be especially problematic in Nebraska, which the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks 50th in reproductive rights. Although many might consider a gap of a few years or more in their work history to be a weak point on their résumé, professionals such as Brooks and Wagner see such areas as opportunities for articulation of “softer” skills that could be a major asset for any job seeker. Companies hire employees because they have a problem, a need that is unmet. A potential employee who is able to discuss their problem-solving skills articulately makes for a strong candidate in almost any field.

Volunteer experience, work with school organizations, problem solving, and interpersonal skills can all help raise the value of potential employees. Brooks emphasizes that gaps in work history are not necessarily a weakness if workers know how to showcase that time in a clear way. While it is helpful to take a few classes or continue to work part-time outside the home, the most important strategy to rejoining the workforce is to maintain connections with coworkers.

Overall, the uncertainty Brooks and Wagner see the most frequently in their female clients stems from a lack of confidence. Women tend to be less aggressive in their job search and avoid “bragging” in their application process, which can impact a potential employer’s perception of their value as workers. Advice from a professional career coach or résumé writer can help build that confidence and show women that their skills translate to career opportunities.

With information about the dollar value of talents available on the internet, women are now more prepared than ever to use their skills as leverage in negotiation of salary, benefits, and flexibility of hours. Women are great at building relationships, especially with other women, and shouldn’t be afraid to use those connections. Brooks states plainly, “people hire people.” Research, some self-reflection, and a strong résumé can help women and their prospective employers understand that their skills are worth far more than 73 cents on the dollar.

Visit omahacareercoach.com for more information.

Bridget (Weide) Brooks

Bridget (Weide) Brooks

 

 

 

Top Ten Networking Tips

by Bridget (Weide) Brooks

Person-to-person networking is the single most effective way to find a new job, according to a survey conducted by Right Management, with 46 percent of jobseekers identifying networking as the reason they found their most recent job. Here’s 10 easy ways for women to build, nurture, and grow their personal network.

1. Don’t wait until you need a job to build your network. You should be constantly building—and strengthening—your connections with your network. Do something to build your network each and every day, whether that’s sending an email to someone you haven’t talked to in a while or identifying someone new you want to meet.

2. Don’t think of networking as some big, scary thing. It’s talking to people. It’s asking them for help. It’s offering help. It’s about cultivating relationships, not doing some forced, fake thing.

3. Identify who is already in your network. Take out a sheet of paper and make a list of all the people you know: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), alumni connections, and your doctor, financial adviser, attorney, etc. Your holiday card list can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.

4. Remember the principle of “Six Degrees of Separation.” Research shows that you are likely six people away from the person you want to reach. There’s fun in figuring out how to get to that person. A practical application of this is to look for the person on LinkedIn and see who is connected to that person that you already know. Reach out to your contact offline (not on LinkedIn, but by phone or in person) and ask if they can help you connect with that person.

5. The power of the network is not just the people you know—it’s the people those people know. What if you can’t find a contact in common? Don’t be afraid to ask your network to help connect you with someone who has the information or resources you need. A very practical way to do this, for example, is to send a group text message or Facebook Messenger message that says, “Do any of you know someone who works for ABC Company?”

6. Give to get. Be the person who reaches out to your network of contacts regularly (at least a couple of times a year) to see what they are doing, to acknowledge those efforts, and to offer to provide assistance (should they need it). Segment your list of contacts into a “to do” list of check-ins. But make sure you are focusing on them when you make contact, not on you. You probably know someone who only contacts you when they need something. Don’t be that person.

7. Make time to get out and see people. The most powerful networking contacts are in-person, one-to-one interactions. If possible, arrange one to two coffee or after-work happy hour meetings with someone in your network each month. Also, when possible, attend networking events (for example, those hosted by a professional organization). If you can’t do that, network where you already are: your child’s soccer game, your neighborhood grocery store, and even at sporting events.

8. Network online. Participate in an online community. This can be a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn, an alumni site (like Classmates.com) or your trade association’s website (which might have an e-list or message board to connect members). However, remember that online networking is not a substitute for in-person networking.

9. Be very specific when you activate your network. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are in a position to help you reach that specific goal. You’ll sometimes see someone post a public request for help finding a new job—but more often, these types of requests are made individually and not as a broad “call for help.”

10. Once you build it, use it! Women are extraordinarily talented at creating small, powerful networks—we just need to do a better job of using them!