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story.lead_photo.caption Nick Hunter is using his G.I. Bill benefits to gain on-the-job training as a construction inspector with the City of Fulton. City Administrator Bill Johnson said many veterans may not realize their G.I. Bill can be used for education other than college. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

College isn't the right choice for everyone, including some military veterans — but that doesn't mean they can't use their G.I. Bill benefits.

Local construction inspector-in-training Nick Hunter and the City of Fulton are making use of a lesser-known G.I. Bill benefit: on-the-job training.

"I was excited to learn about this program," Hunter said Wednesday. "It really helps ease the burden, financially. I'm pleased to be able to use this benefit and I hope to help other vets do the same."

A former member of the Army and current National Guard member, Hunter heard about the program through the City of Fulton.

According to City Administrator Bill Johnson, Hunter is the first to do G.I. Bill-aided training through the City of Fulton. In order to use the benefit, the trainee must be participating in an approved training program. That's where Michael Flynn comes in. He's the assistant director of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Veterans Education and Training branch. DESE approves training programs for G.I. Bill benefits.

"We approached the City of Fulton," Flynn said. "We're anxious to have as many types of programs and jobs available as possible, so vets can plug into a career they find most useful."

The Fulton Police Department, Fulton State Hospital and Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center also have authorized training programs.

Here's how it works.

A G.I. Bill-eligible veteran or National Guard member can search for authorized programs on the Department of Veteran Affairs website at bit.ly/gibillprogs. They then sign up. The employer maintains some required paperwork — nothing too excessive, Johnson said — and the trainee gets a monthly stipend that tapers off as the trainee's wage increases throughout the training period.

"It's meant to help with the transition into work," Flynn said.

Most veterans know the G.I. Bill can be used for higher education and technical schools, but not all realize apprenticeships and on-the-job training are options too, he said.

Aside from the obvious financial benefits to the veterans, Flynn said the program benefits employers, as well.

"The employer's getting a really great employee who knows about work, about the importance of showing up," he said.

Johnson said he's pleased the city is able to participate in the program.

"I'd totally encourage other employers in the community to see if they have veterans who haven't used their G.I. Bill," he said. "As a former Marine, I have a soft spot for other vets."

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