New Jersey’s first-ever veteran training center and incubator offers employment training as well as shared office space for veteran-owned small businesses. It’s located in Newark’s One Gateway Center.
“From a physical standpoint, it’s close to the train station, it’s in the biggest city in New Jersey, so accessibility, I think, is an asset that comes to it. But it’s also important because it’s close to a lot of the companies that can potentially be employers,” said Chuck Sevola, vice president of Prudential Veterans Initiatives.
The one-stop shop was developed by the GI Go Fund, an organization founded in 2006 in memory of Lt. Seth Dvorin who was killed by an IED blast while serving in Iraq. His childhood friend, Jack Fanous, created the organization in Dvorin’s honor to make sure no military member’s sacrifice are ever forgotten.
“My buddy, who we founded this organization in his honor, he was a go-getter. He was an entrepreneur in spirit, and we want to capture that entrepreneurial spirit and give them all the resources and tools they need,” said Fanous. “We’ll build them their websites. We’ll provide them with legal services and accounting. That takes a lot of time, and if we can get that off a veteran’s plate and provide them the resources they need, their businesses will flourish.”
Veterans don’t physically need to be in Newark to take advantage of the services. Employment training will be available online and on demand for veterans nationwide.
“Every veteran will be able to log onto their computer, wherever they are, and view this training, and conduct it, and ask questions, and participate in the training classes live as if they were here, so laptop, phone, mobile,” said Fanous. “We are also working with some satellite TV providers who will put up satellite dishes to be able to allow veterans to go to VFW halls and American Legions and watch these courses as well.”
The incubator is named after Jackson Drysadale, the late son of PSE&G Power Venture’s president Diana Drysdale. She says his dedication to helping veterans was inspiring.
“The fact that if you looked at a 65-year-old veteran on the street, he was probably a combat veteran in Vietnam. And Jack said, ‘Mom we can’t not do something about this,'” she said. “So stepping in and helping them strategically form the organization, and not just give money. We did a lot of work helping them design a program that would be sustainable and actually be able to expand.”
Expansion that includes mentorship from veterans like Lieutenant Colonel Justin Constantine. Constantine survived being shot in the head by a sniper in 2006 while in Iraq and knows firsthand the obstacles veterans face when transitioning into civilian life.
“Veteran employment, to me, is very important. I recognize in my own recovery that having a good job that you can really get behind and enjoy can help other problems go away,” said Constantine, who is CEO of Constantine Group.
Fanous says to date, $600,000 has been donated from various sponsors, and they’re looking to raise more money. He says they’re also looking to expand their training space that currently can accommodate about 50 people during a training session.