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“If a service member is leaving with an honorable discharge, we want to ensure that there’s an opportunity waiting for him or her.”
U.S. Department of Defense Force Education and Training Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Fred Drummond stated this goal in opening remarks at the Military Pathways Summit.
He also said, “Part of our commitment is to provide opportunities to service members and their spouses.”
The summit, co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce and Hiring Our Heroes addressed just that.
It offered a platform for business, military, and labor leaders to help support career pathways and transitions for service members, veterans, and military spouses.
Throughout the day’s conversations, several major issues were acknowledged and summit participants and attendees discussed their current and future plans to work together to tackle these challenges.
Federal agency accountability
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Senior White House Advisor Jake Leinenkugel acknowledged the need for a national program for accountability, which would require guidance from the private sector. He also remarked that, because the VA is returning its focus primarily to the care of veterans and much of the department’s career programs are similar to those offered by labor groups, he has hopes that labor organizations will take the reins on veteran hiring moving forward.
UWUA/UMAP Director Richard Passarelli reinforced this, stressing that to have one federal agency at the forefront of military transitions would lead to greater accountability and partnership with union groups.
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary Acosta Laurie Rowe remarked that DOL intends to implement hiring programs to further alleviate the work of the VA, and collaborate with other federal agencies on this effort.
Private sector solutions
Where the morning portion of the summit centered on the challenges experienced and identified by government and military officials, the afternoon session addressedhow all sectors share similar challenges in the talent marketplace and how many corporate solutions could be applied to inspire real change for the military and our veterans.
A keynote address from Lumina Foundation Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Dr. Danette Howard approached this head on.
“The military is not alone in realizing we must focus both on helping veterans find jobs as they return to civilian life and on earning degrees and other credentials that will benefit them over the long term,” said Howard.
“We are working with employers, educators, and workforce leaders to create a system of learning beyond high school that addresses this need through private-sector solutions such as Credential Engine, the U.S. Chamber Foundation Job Data Exchange, and the American Council on Education’s new project to create portable, competency-based transcripts, as well as frameworks for articulating competencies that translate across sectors."
The Manufacturing Institute Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Gardner Carrick shared that, on the civilian side, efforts currently exist that could be shared with the public sector.
U.S. Department of Education Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Diane Jones iterated that her agency prepares to find new measures of education quality and seeks private sector partners who can assist in this endeavor.
The department is also planning to push competency-based programming in colleges and universities. Such programs would make it easier for veterans and transitioning service members to leverage their existing credentials.
Understanding military members’ skill sets
The issue of credentialing proved to be a pervasive one throughout the day’s conversation.
“Most of America doesn’t understand the skill set that the military has,” Teamsters Military Assistance Program National Director Mick Yauger said.
According to Credential Engine Executive Director Scott Cheney, there are presently some 330,000 unique credentials available to service members. That number is expected to rise within the calendar year. Competencies, he argued, come packaged in the form of credentials. Sometimes, the names given to these credentials disguise their value to employers.
What’s needed to bridge this gap is a common language between employers and prospective veteran and service member candidates.
For employers, Business Roundtable Vice President Dane Linn proposed a reframing of the way in which talent is recruited. Specifically, job-creators ought to craft competency-focused descriptions to recruit candidates with a military background. He advocated for the creation of a credentialing registry that could serve as the first step in job recruitment.
Similarly, Cheney recommended the creation of a “common standard that can be used by anyone and everyone” involved in the hiring process. He likened this service to Expedia and Amazon: A one-stop destination to search for qualified candidates and competitive open positions.
U.S. Chamber Foundation Center for Education and Workforce Vice President Jason Tyzko stressed that the U.S. Chamber Foundation is working to translate these military skills and credentials into a common language that leads to jobs and apprenticeships, the latter of which apply in a number of industries.
Dane Linn of Business Roundtable suggested that private sector and military representatives discuss apprenticeship models and coordinate a unified approach.
Several labor organizations – including the Teamsters, UWUA/UMAP, and Helmets to Hardhats – provide training programs to veterans in the transition process. These programs grant veterans exposure to careers across all trades and prepare them to enter and succeed in the workforce.
Lisa Rowe of DOL suggested that apprenticeships be offered to younger students to deepen their appreciation of STEM and broaden their career aspirations. Similarly, exposing service members, military spouses, and veterans to the array of career opportunities open to them will allow them to prepare and train for future employment.
With continued cooperation, business, labor, and the military will expand workforce opportunities for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses.