Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.
Aug
2011
8

Veterans Often Lack the Specific Credentials to Translate Their Military Skills Into Civilian Jobs

Many veterans are returning home to find that they are not “qualified” to do the civilian equivalent of jobs that they had been doing in the military. According to an article by Alexandra Alper, this is one of the biggest hurdles for returning veterans looking to reacclimate to civilian life. The soldiers have experience in their respective fields but do not have a formal education or certification to show for it.

Gaining real world experience was a selling point for many soldiers as they decided to volunteer to serve our country. Donna Bachler is one such individual:

Bachler, 30, helped run the Army’s postal service in Kuwait, tackling challenges such as how to crack down on mailed contraband and speeding the flow of mail to troops.

Now back in the United States, she gets by on her husband’s salary, which will be cut by more than half when he retires from the military as soon as next year.

“One of the ways I sold (military service) to myself and my parents is ‘it looks good on a resume,'” said Bachler, who estimates she has applied for at least 1,000 jobs since 2007. “Sadly, it doesn’t.”

Unemployment among veterans is currently at 13.3 percent, four points higher than the national average. In some states, it is as high as 24 percent. With many troops preparing to return from Iraq and Afghanistan in the upcoming year, the problem is one both the government and the military are in search of a solution for:

More than a dozen government programs aim to tackle veteran unemployment through job search courses, career centers, hiring fairs and grants for states and local agencies.

But many former military personnel say what they really need is a waiver from the often lengthy training process required to get jobs for which they are already effectively qualified.

The GI bill and some Pentagon programs reimburse vets for training and certification exams but the training itself can last weeks to several years.

“They tell us, ‘We give you training you can use in the real world,'” Bachler said. “Really? It’s real world training but the real world won’t take it.”

The military states that 88 percent of their jobs have direct civilian counterparts. However, they do not have the same certifications. This can be a hindrance in a field such as Emergency Medical Services, where training can take up to 18 months.

“They come back from doing 24/7 medic work and can’t even drive an ambulance,” said Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat who is chairwoman of the Veteran Affairs committee.

President Obama will make an announcement on Friday that the government will begin to reform its policies in this area to assist returning veterans looking for civilian work. The government will look to reform the way it trains, educates, and credentials its soldiers. It will also give tax credits as incentives to companies who hire veterans.

The goal, according to a White House official who briefed reporters, is to create a “reverse boot camp” that gives more guidance to outgoing vets and ensures “that the transition to the civilian workforce reflects the military’s promise of making sure that every member is career-ready by the time they leave.”

This reverse boot camp idea has merit and potential. Many of these soldiers have been overseas for a large part if not all of the recession and are woefully unprepared to enter today’s American workforce where people are sending out hundreds of resumes and applications with hopes of landing one interview. The courses could be used to not only include a briefing on the current workforce conditions, but to streamline the application process of licensing and credentials. According to the Reuters article, Donna Bachler agrees.

Bachler thinks the U.S. military should give civilian licensing tests to all recruits at the close of training, as the British Armed Forces do.

In Virginia, a frustrated Sergeant Nawrocki is starting an online training course in logistics — even though he has 13 years’ experience.

“I know I can do the job but I know employers don’t understand that and want to see the certification,” he said.

Last week, President Obama announced a plan to curb veteran joblessness which has thus far been met with skepticism.

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