Forget shifting the story, veteran and military spouse Justine Evirs wants to switch it up completely. After years of experience in higher education where she worked in admissions, building programs, and academics, she left the higher education world and started The Paradigm Switch, with the intent of making a national impact on veteran and spouse employment.
Evirs worked for a non-profit, then another, and still felt something was missing. She joined Bunker Labs, was one of 35 veterans selected to participate in Stanford Ignite 2017, and started to solve the problem on her own. “Employment isn’t the whole problem,” she said, “6.8 million Americans are looking for jobs and 6 million unfilled jobs.”
So she started asking more questions: “Why aren’t people pursuing the higher income/educational opportunities? What are their roadblocks?” And she quickly discovered that while higher education is great, it’s not enough. Take marketing for example; even in digital marketing degree classes, students aren’t learning about Facebook Ads. “Most people are self-taught because there is no financial aid or GI Bill funding for those types of programs, so I built a scholarship program to fill that gap.”
Evirs sees herself as accelerating the program the government is talking about and is prepared to present that information to them when they are ready. The goal is to help more people, like an Army soldier who is about to retire. “She just graduated with a certificate in digital marketing last month, after 20 years in the Army, she took advantage of the scholarship. Now her entire world has changed with opportunities and her approach to the job market,” Evirs said.
The Paradigm Switch is very young, and as they move into what Evirs refers to as “Phase 2” this year, she’s excited about what is to come. “Focus and clarity are the two things I’m planning this year,” she said. “We’re moving from the validation and foundational stages and narrowing our scope.”
While building a team, continuing to fundraise for scholarships, and narrowing their focus, The Paradigm Switch is continuing to award scholarships to help fill the gap. Their website defines the gap that most transitioning service members and military spouses suffer from includes networking, mentorship, and skills-based training, all of which are addressed by the Paradigm Switch.
When discussing skills-based training, Evirs is talking about more than just on-the-job technical training. We’ve all read and heard Mike Rowe talk about how there are plenty of blue collar jobs waiting for hard-working Americans out there. Evirs and The Paradigm Switch is talking about prestigious skills-based careers.
“We [the military community] are not filling the gap for high-level jobs,” she said. “We’re selling the community short.” Remote work, changing jobs every 18-24 months, and even changing companies for career advancement is now the norm. So every time someone comments about how long a military spouse is going to be living somewhere, let’s challenge that. Evirs wants the military spouse community to embrace this new norm.
“I want to be bold, to push it,” she said. “I want to make a big impact on a small group and then grow organically.”
By Rebecca Alwine