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I’ve been really thinking about this for some time now….how do you “future proof” programs that help transitioning service members and veterans land great careers. The DoD Skillbridge program is absolutely phenomenal, but there continues to be a LIMFAC with allowing some members to participate. The number one reason is manning at the local level, but there are other reasons as well. There is also the issue of funding at the DoD Level. Currently, there are very few people who physically work within the Skillbridge realm…most help thus far is coming from outsiders who know a thing or two about the program.
Turns out…the answer has been in front of me all along and it’s in the form of Apprenticeships offered through the Department of Labor (these have been in existence since the 1930’s). Click the below image to learn more about the Federal Apprenticeship program!
The Problem Statement
Let’s create an avatar of the typical E4/E5 member who serves four or six years and then separates.
They receive their DD Form 214 and have earned the status of Veteran. Outstanding! Thank you for your service Sir/Ma’am! However…sometimes all is NOT well. Let me explain.
Here is what happens. They go through basic training, then attend technical training that is specific to their job in the military. They then perform what is called a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to their first base. This is when they start what is called OJT or “On The Job Training”. Once complete (can take up to a year or two) they deploy. Sometimes they deploy before OJT completion. They then come back home, de-stress, and go right back to work in a training environment that is sometimes even more stressful than a deployment…(OPSTEMPO)…aka they are very busy.
The military is a way of life….not just another job, therefore members are expected to go WAY above and beyond what is expected of their civilian counterparts. This leads to very little family/relaxation time and leads to massive stress. It’s a consistent feeling of needing to be perfect at all times.
This cycle continues until their enlistment is up. They work hard, put the hours in, and are proud of their accomplishment….but some can’t wait to get away from the military as FAST as possible. (Insert Reason Here…there are MANY).
Those who want to separate and leave the military behind (as fast as possible) are usually free thinkers, those who have an entrepreneurial mindset, and those who are unbelievably hard-working, talented, and S.M.A.R.T. They know how successful they can be in the civilian sector…..so why deal with deployments, PCS’s, E4/E5 pay, and drama that comes with the military way of life. It’s a no brainer. There are also those who just don’t “fit” within the military culture framework. Of course this doesn’t apply to all. There are absolutely phenomenal leaders that serve 10, 20, 30, or 40 years! To them…it’s not about the money! However, the focus of this post is junior enlisted so we will stick to that narrative.
Long story short….There is TREMENDOUS sacrifice military members must face in order to be successful. It’s an incredibly difficult (Yet Honorable) career. Definitely not attainable for the masses! Anyway….I digress. Let’s dive into why members need help!
During this period, many aren’t taught, or simply don’t have the time to learn about the transition process until the mandatory TAP course. This is bad. Even though TAP is “supposed” to be completed a year prior to transitioning…in the real world it just doesn’t happen like that….not all of the time anyway and depends on the members military specialty and manning.
Is it the norm that TAP isn’t completed a year prior to separation? No. We are talking about the junior enlisted that slip through the cracks. However, when you realize that approximately 200,000 service members separate or retire each year….the stats alone define this number to be large.
The Vicious Cycle
What this creates: A young junior enlisted member who is in a terrible position to start off on the right foot post-military. If they are given the tools and information about how to transition within the first year they arrive to their duty station, they are in a MUCH better position. Some members receive this guidance through phenomenal mentors….some don’t. If they have time to get an education, or certifications in an industry they WANT to be in after the military they would have time to knock out those requirements using their Tuition Assistance and COOL funding (Separate from the GI Bill). This is the key. Also, some service members don’t want to do something relatable to their military job. If we are being completely honest…a decent percentage of folks don’t even get the job they wanted while serving IN the military. So why in the hell would they continue being miserable after they separate? Life is too short for that!
So, if they don’t have the job they wanted in the military, or they have a job that doesn’t translate well to the civilian sector (aside from soft skills)…and they don’t have the time, training, and mentorship to achieve their dreams…and lastly, they aren’t afforded a Skillbridge opportunity….what choice do they have? Not many to be honest….the bills need to be paid.
So…here is the kicker…because of the above scenario…thousands of service members aren’t prepared for their transition. As stated above, the #dodskillbridge program is phenomenal and I applaud all leaders who allow their members to capitalize on it. However….some can’t and “most” of the time it’s for legitimate reasons. THIS is the demographic we should really try to help. Our young junior enlisted members who sacrificied so much in service to their country.
If you aren’t sure what the DoD SkillBridge program is click HERE to learn about it. I would recommend doing so before continuing on with this post!
So how do we help the thousands of unprepared transitioning service members find a career in something they WANT to do? Well….I think the answer is an Apprenticeship program through the Department of Labor.
By creating a paid internship within your company you will immediately create an opportunity for a transitioning service member. This is great for your business as well because you are going to get an employee that is absolutely top notch (if they aren’t then you don’t have to convert them to a W-2 employee). Obviously this increases your company’s bottom line, but also helps the transitioning service member because they now have an opportunity AFTER they separate and not within the last 6 months of their enlistment. This completely eliminates the manning issue that plagues the DoD SkillBridge opportunity for some members. (Remember, some is a LOT statistically speaking).
You can learn about apprenticeship programs (specifically for veterans) through the apprenticeship.gov website HERE.
You can take this MUCH further!! If you already have a robust training program you could contact your local Veteran Affairs office and ask how veterans could use their GI Bill to go through your training program that would lead to industry certifications and credentials! THIS is how you could REALLY help transitioning service members and veterans! This allows them to get industry training, while being paid….while also receiving a chapter 33 GI Bill housing stipend at an E5 level.
Best of all, everything I am mentioning throughout this entire post is 100 percent free! These are all Federal Government programs!
How To Create Your Apprenticeship Program
Contact a representative at apprenticeship.gov that helps employers. They will give you the best information and are experts in this area.
Then contact your local Veteran Affairs office and ask how you can get a program authorized for GI Bill funding and listed within their “web enabled approvement management system”…or WEAMS for short. You might need to partner with a local community College or university. However, your local VA representative will help you with this process!
Your Program Has Been Created! How Do You Advertise It?
You have quite a few options here. You can Advertise your program in our Facebook Group “Veteran Employment & Transition Alliance” (VETA) and reach over 26 thousand members actively looking for advice and employment opportunities. It will provide a consistent funnel of incredibly talented candidates that will fill your open roles after their apprenticeship with your company! (If converted to a W2 employee)
You can Advertise within the DoD SkillBridge Community of Practice LinkedIn Group founded by Dave Schantz HERE. This group is like VETA, but on LinkedIn.
Now that you understand the pain points of young veterans, you can now develop an action plan on how to truly help them out! One thing NOT mentioned is that once your program has been developed, it can also be used for civilian hires as well!
Not a single person alive has acquired a skillset without first learning the fundamentals of (Insert skill here). Something cannot come from nothing (disregard areas quantum physics we have yet to understand). But seriously…to master a skill is to first learn the basics. It is then beneficial to ensure a repetitious process thereafter where one can gain experience. Finally, after one has “honed” said skill…they are able to TEACH it. Now…insert your apprenticeship program into the mix using all of the above information and imagine the possibilities your company could achieve through in-house/in-depth training!
Match your training program to the world’s greatest talent. Hire those with great character traits first….then train them for skill later, empower them, treat them like family…and witness your company achieve results that most could only dream of!