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Nontraditional student, nontraditional career

May 14, 2013

techU-1When Carol Multack (B.A., English, 2012) decided to return to college, she was a bit apprehensive.

“I’d not been in a classroom in over 20 years, and not only was I going to be twice the age of my classmates, I was behind on technology and feeling overwhelmed,” she said. “In the first two months of my first class, I never said a word.”

Under the guidance of English professors Sean Shesgreen and Amy Newman, however, she found her voice: “I never thought I would take a poetry class but Dr. Newman made everyone feel so comfortable. No opinion was ever discarded.”

And even though Shesgreen’s class was hard, she stuck it out.

Now, Multack speaks up to help hundreds of the nation’s veterans who might feel overwhelmed with the prospect of finding careers after their military service. Along the way, she instills confidence in her clients.

Creating her own company was not what she had in mind. “I was really interested in grant writing,” Multack says. “I had a lot of experience as a community organizer, and I knew that would be a great fit with my background.”

But, she discovered some alarming data as she conducted research while writing a grant for a company called TechU 24/7.

Corporate branding image provided by A Legacy for Learning“As I was doing research for that project, I stumbled across the unemployment statistics for veterans,” said Multack, who added that she was shocked to learn that veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 currently have an unemployment rate of 36 percent. “I felt that demographic had a need that I wanted to address.”

Partnering with the president of TechU 24/7, who is a veteran himself, Multack founded A Legacy for Learning, a nonprofit organization that provides veterans with scholarships for approved vocational training programs leading to sustainable wage jobs and career advancement opportunities.

“So many veterans come home and don’t know how to apply the skills that they learned in the service to jobs in the normal workplace. They take jobs in minimum wage after they have multiple years of experience because they just don’t know how to relate their skills to the civilian workforce. We help them with that.”

Currently, her company targets jobs in the commercial food service industry. Service technicians for these positions are aging, and a lot of people don’t know about the profession.

The Commercial Food Equipment Repair Technician course teaches the fundamentals for gas, electric and steam repair, which includes everything on the hot side of the kitchen that might need repairing, such as stoves, steamers and fryers.

Logo of A Legacy for Learning Corp.“Anywhere that has a food service program – schools, hospitals, hotels or casinos – has a need for these technicians,” Multack said.

In the end, Multack credits the confidence she gained as a student at NIU for leading her to take on the role as CEO of her own company. “The biggest thing I came away with after graduation was confidence,” she said. “Going back to school as an adult learner after 30 years, I felt out of place and lacked confidence in my skills. In that way, I can really relate to the veterans who my company now helps.”

by Linda Watson