COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – A law aimed at helping veterans get and keep jobs took effect this week. It will help fund programs that teach veterans new skills and give them on-the-job mentoring.

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd found out how Discover Goodwill is the model for such a program.

A Bradley tank (credit: CBS)

A Bradley tank (credit: CBS)

It’s a beast — a 35-ton tank the military calls a Bradley. For 21 years Rodney Johnson was the authority on it. As an Army mechanic he could take the tank apart and reassemble it. But then he retired and realized those skills aren’t exactly in high demand.

“The problem with the skills that I did learn is you don’t see too many Bradleys driving down the streets,” Johnson said.

So like many veterans he struggled to find work … until his wife learned about a new program being launched at Discover Goodwill.

“She told me about the course, gave me a kick in the backside and said, ‘You’re going to go to this,’ ” Johnson said.

Rodney Johnson (credit: CBS)

Rodney Johnson (credit: CBS)

Johnson and 19 other veterans are now the first class in a first-of-its-kind course. Discover Goodwill in partnership with Pikes Peak College is training and certifying veterans as diesel mechanics, finding them jobs, and then pairing them with mentors for their first two years on the job.

“They’re going to troubleshoot some issues, anything arises, employee with the employer, and how can we make it better?” Jesse Vasquez with Discover Goodwill said.

Rodney Johnson (credit: CBS)

Rodney Johnson (credit: CBS)

“Knowing they’re going to be there after we get that job and if anything happens we can use them as a crutch,” Johnson said. “We can go see them and say, ‘Hey, I need some more help.’ That’s awesome.”

Now the state is helping as well. A new law sets up a pilot program providing nearly $160,000 for retraining and on-the-job mentoring programs for veterans. The lawmaker who pushed for it, Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Colorado Springs, says it’s the least we should do for veterans.

“It’s hard to take somebody who has maybe had problems, they might have severe PTSD, and throw them out there and expect them to navigate, not just the job, but everything life throws in front of them,” Landgraf said.

Rodney Johnson (credit: CBS)

Rodney Johnson (credit: CBS)

Now, like the tanks he once fixed, Johnson is unstoppable.

“I just want thank everybody who has given to program, I want to thank all those in the program that kind of have mentored us and pushed us a little bit into a direction that we can help ourselves,” Johnson said.

“It’s us who should be thanking them all the time,” Landgraf said.

Johnson graduated on Thursday from the diesel mechanic course. The program is run out of Discover Goodwill in Colorado Springs. It’s taking applications right now for its next class of veterans.

LINK: Discover Goodwill in Colorado Springs