Keith Robeson is not one to give up. One example? The 40-something Kooskia man did not want to leave the Army despite his injuries that have wreaked havoc on his mind and body. Today? He just wants to work, which led to a meeting with Monica Jones, a workforce consultant at the Idaho Department of Labor’s Orofino local office, in February.
“I started out with Voc Rehab (Idaho Department of Vocational Rehabilitation) in Orofino,” Robeson said. Through them, he was able to have a spinal cord stimulator implanted to combat his debilitating chronic back pain.
“I got a lot of my ability back. I was feeling good and able again,” Robeson said. And he was ready to get to work. Voc Rehab referred him to the Idaho Department of Labor. That’s when Jones came into the picture.
“We worked with Keith to identify several local employers who would be a good match for him,” Jones said. They eventually found a business that fit. The initial plan was for Labor to coordinate an on-the-job training opportunity with the business through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity and Act program, which helps fund such training, while Voc Rehab would provide tools or supplies he might need.
Jones enrolled Robeson in the program, but just days later, Gov. Brad Little issued the stay-at-home order because of COVID-19 and many businesses stopped hiring – including the one the team had identified – at least for the near future.
But neither Robeson nor Jones were going to give up and in a short time, he found a job he was excited about that would also help him hone his truck driving skills. As part of his separation from the Army, Robeson attended truck driving training and earned his commercial driver’s license. The training site for his new job, however, was quite a distance from his home.
“I was really happy, although I was hoping to get the experience I needed and transfer closer to home,” Robeson said. Instead, he found himself working in another capacity at the more remote location and decided he might need to quit.
After 13 years in the Army in locations like Hawaii, South Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, spending time with his family is important. “I got married and enlisted on the same day,” he said. “We are a tight unit and I am too blessed with the family I have.”
Before Robeson gave his notice, Jones counseled him on how to approach his employer about the distance issue. Though the truck driving job ultimately did not pan out, the company transferred him close to home. Even though the job was more physically demanding than truck driving, it gave him the opportunity to spend more time with his family.
“His hard work and work ethic were key in the employer’s desire to maintain his employment,” Jones said. “Keith’s willingness to address the issue in a constructive manner also contributed to him successfully maintaining his job.”
Currently, Robeson is on hiatus from the job as his injuries caught up with him. He is preparing for more surgeries to treat neck stenosis and injuries to his left knee and shoulder, along with lengthy physical therapy. But he maintains his positive attitude.
“Working with Labor was an awesome experience,” Robeson said. “Monica was always reaching out and helping to give me that edge. I would 110 percent recommend Labor to people who are out of work or are retired but want to find a job.”
Learn more about WIOA training programs and eligibility through the Idaho Department of Labor.
– Jean Cullen, Idaho Department of Labor project coordinator