Program links troops with career resources

By Sarah Lifshin: American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — As the United States’ economic crisis lingers, returning veterans are finding it harder to translate the skills they have learned on the battlefields onto a resume, but some employers are working with the military to bridge the gap.

Staff members with the Employer Partnership Office of the Armed Forces are providing the resources needed to help enlisted servicemembers, veterans, retirees and spouses secure employment after their tours of duty end.

The program, formerly known as the U.S. Army Reserve Employer Partnership Initiative, was created in 2008 as an initiative under the leadership of Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve. It offers candidates a jump start into the private sector through partnerships with employers worldwide.

“Through employer partnerships, we can further cultivate an affordable operational reserve force by sharing our men and women with selected civilian employers, who, in turn, will help us to develop and maintain talents, capabilities and skills that are essential on the battlefield,” Stultz wrote in the January/February issue of “The Officer.”

“Participating employers see the skills our soldiers bring as value added to their enterprises, while we see employers’ contribution in maintaining the skills the nation needs as value added to our force,” Stultz added.

As of this spring, officials have recruited more than 1,000 employment partners, including 480 of the Fortune 500 companies. More than 500,000 jobs currently are listed on the employer partnership website.

Job seekers are matched with employers such as Wal-Mart, General Electric and Con-way. These companies respect servicemembers’ experience and understand the skills and background they can bring to the job, officials said.

Servicemembers provide the necessary qualified and trained human capital needed to fill a variety of positions, defense officials said. Through their experience in the armed forces, they acquire abilities in management, leadership, project execution, team building and strategic planning.

Use of the program is a cost savings for employers, who often spend thousands of dollars in recruiting and screening expenses, officials said. Prior to employment, candidates receive background checks, medical screening and aptitude testing as a result of their military backgrounds.

The partnership has made great strides in career placement, defense officials said. Among its placement and credentialing services, candidates receive coaching, counseling and use of the program’s job search engine, among other assistance. A new website, the Employer Partnership Office of the Armed Forces, will include tools to help veterans and employers translate military skills to civilian skills.

Faced with the insecurity of life after military service, veterans often find the civilian hiring process daunting, as hiring managers often don’t understand how their skills will support their companies, said Dave Miller, senior vice president of global policy and economic sustainability at Con-way, a freight, transportation and logistics company.

About 3,000 of the 30,000 workers worldwide for the San Mateo, Calif.-based company have served in the military. Veteran-filled positions include service center managers, mechanics, truck drivers and administrators.

“We need to understand how to jump start their civilian careers,” Miller said. “If we are going to support the all-voluntary military, where the defense of this nation rests on the shoulders of these (servicemembers), we must understand how to support their civilian and military careers, because they run concurrently. Employers need to put themselves into the shoes of those who protect our rights as Americans.”

Employers often have difficulties understanding how military job skills will transition into the private sector, he added.