Leaving the military can be a major life change for many military members and their families. Traditionally, transition is simply a class they have to take and paperwork they have to sign before they officially return to the civilian world. Unfortunately, that move from the military to the civilian world can often be a more significant leap than often anticipated. And one that is not necessarily managed well.
Many transitioning service members are not prepared with a well-thought out career or financial plan. One million service members will transition out of the military every five years—roughly 180,000 each year—and programs that support, guide and inform are crucial to their successful transition to civilian life.
Onward to Opportunity in Partnership with US Veterans Career Transition Program (O2O-VCTP) is a free, Department of Defense supported training program—offered either online or in person–that provides industry-specific instruction and certification in business, technology and customer service industries up to six months before separating from the service. The program has skilled over 10,000 members to date and has an aggressive goal to place 30,000 Veterans into employment or better employment by 2022.
The program, managed by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University focuses on training and certifying the service member or their spouse for a civilian career before they leave the military and connecting them with over 500 well-known employer partners to secure a job offer prior to their separation date.
The ability to keep connected with the transitioning service member and keep them engaged in career exploration post-service is crucial to their success. Once a member leaves the service there are very few ways to keep track of their job search success which is why the O2O-VCTP initiative is so successful. The personal connection to a Program Manager and a team of advising professionals is a key differentiator to this program.
Additionally the O2O-VCTP program helps service members explore career fields outside of their military service job or careers that use some of their military skills but may require additional training in order to be able to apply for those jobs.
According to Work After Service: Developing Workforce Readiness and Vets Talent for the Future, seventy-one percent of Veterans work in private industry after their military service and over fifty percent leave the service with the intent to start a career in a field unrelated to their military specialty.
In IVMF’s 2016 Workforce Readiness Alignment study, Veteran are able to find and keep jobs that are in their preferred industry, match well to the skills they have already developed and align with an employer’s Veterans hiring program. With nearly half of US Vets leaving their first post-service job after a year, there is clearly room for beginning the employment transition well before those members take off the uniform.
“The key here is that once a service member leaves the military, we have no way of getting to them unless they are looking for resources. When we implement a program such as O2O-VCTP that begins post-service career training while they are finishing out their obligation, we get the benefits of creating a lasting connection and we can see how that early training impacted their ability to find and keep a job after they leave the military,” said Jim McDonough, Managing Director of IVMF.
The program works within the Department of Defense’s established systems and installations and begins with an assessment for those interested. The assessment helps identify which field is the best fit for the service member and takes into account their interests, non-military experience and goals. Sometimes those goals may include not only earning employment or improving job prospects, but higher education as well.
Then, the member attends a 12 week web-based and classroom training in one of three career areas: Customer Service Excellence, Information Technology, and Business Management. A full course listing is available online, but with over 30 career tracks such as hotel management, information technology and even Lean Six Sigma training as available options, there is no shortage of career options.
Finally, after the member completes the course work, they can begin the job search with employer partners of the O2O-VCTP program coordinated through a strategic partnership with Hire Heroes Unites States.
“The goal is to have them in the job search and interview process before they are even out of the military so that when that transition point arrives, they know what they will be doing, how much they will be making, where they will be living. Those factors have a tremendous impact on a service member’s ability to transition smoothly and not get lost outside the system,” said McDonough.
The program is also available for military spouses. The issue of spouse employment is an important one. When a member transitions, the whole family transitions. The mobile lifestyle and focus on the needs of the service means many spouses who are qualified to work are not able to because they don’t have the support or back up they need.
The O2O-VCTP program is eligible to spouses of eligible Vets, all active duty service members and Selected Reserve members, regardless of the time from separation.
The program worked for Brandon Griffith, a graduate of the O2O-VCTP program at Fort Drum. He is now employed by Gower Corporation as a System Administrator in Greenville, SC. Griffith said, “If you take advantage of the program you will feel twice as confident about your future during your transitioning period. I honestly started off worried about being able to land a decent job and making a decent income, but during my days with the program – my worries diminished.”
The O2O-VCTP program is offered both in person and online depending on location of the service member. Installation partners are currently Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton, Fort Bragg, Fort Drum, Fort Carson, Fort Campbell, Hampton Roads, Jacksonville Florida, Joint Base Lewis McChord, Joint Base San Antonio, San Diego, Navy Region Northwest and Naval Station Great Lakes. For those not near a location or seeking curriculum flexibility for scheduling, the online learning module is very popular eligible and more classes on installations are being added.
The issue of Vet transition and employment has been a high profile issue since US Vets unemployment hit crisis levels in 2011. Since then, efforts have been made to ensure Vets have access to jobs but the key sticking point is helping them figure out what what they might want to do after their service and ensure they are adequately prepared to be successful long term.
For some military skill sets, the civilian career translation is obvious. But for those who want to do something new in their civilian lives or for those who simply don’t know what to do, the O2O-VCTP program provides a road map to certified training, and employer partners eager to hire upon separation.
“O2O-VCTP represents a major shift in how, where and when the private sector engages with service members and their families as they transition out of the military and into their next careers,” said McDonough. “The blended learning and training experience allowing learners to interact with instructors and one another, while offering a flexible, self-paced learning experience either online or in-person, creates the perfect scenario setting the service members and families up for future success after the military. In addition, employers tell us the direct connection to a highly-skilled, dedicated and experienced pipeline of employees is crucial to their business.”
For more information, visit Onward2Opportunity-VeteransCareerTransitionProgram
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