June 22, 2012

Labor Department paves job path for service members, vets

by Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

Department of Labor officials are reaching out to let transitioning service members and veterans know about the department’s many training programs to give them a successful path to employment.

From workshops to job fairs and one-on-one training, DOL is committed to connecting veterans with jobs, Junior Ortiz, DOL’s deputy assistant secretary for Veterans’ Employment, told American Forces Press Service.

“We are the employment arm of the government [and] the DOL is charged to take care of employment issues, … but specifically for our veterans,” he said. “We must make sure our veterans are employed.”

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis is “very committed to making sure that we take care of our veterans,” Ortiz said. Solis has said, ‘Our veterans have taken care of us. Now it’s time for us to take care of them,'” he said.

As many as 1.5 million service members are expected to transition out of the military during the next five years, said Ortiz, a former Marine Corps officer.

“We have a lot of young men and women coming out of the service who are having a hard time finding something,” he said, “because they don’t realize the resources are out there … to help them find good opportunities and perhaps great careers.”

“We prepare them, we provide the information and skills they need to find good jobs and we protect their rights,” he said.

“DOL has so many facilities and so many pieces that help a veteran, it’s like being on a military team,” he added.

Ortiz outlined just a few of DOL’s resources for transitioning service members and veterans:

  • The Transition Assistance Program, also known as the Employment Workshop, ensures service members have the information they need to make a successful transition back to civilian life, and helps them determine how their military skills transfer to civilian jobs – something Ortiz says people underestimate.

“That’s one of the biggest problems we have,” he said of service members who aren’t sure how to market themselves for a job. “We teach them how to translate [their military experience] to a resume and their skill sets into viable aspects so they can get a job,” he said.

  • The One-Stop-Career centers – 2,800 nationwide – help people obtain training and other support to secure a job. The center serves as a resource to explore careers, salaries and benefits, obtain education and training, do job searches, learn how to write resumes and do interviews.

Transitioning service members become part of the DOL’s Gold Card Initiative following completion of TAP. The gold card gives them six months of intensive one-on-one work with a veterans outreach program. “The gold card is a great way to get them to a One-Stop-Career center and set them up for a good job,” Ortiz said.

  • My Next Move for veterans helps transitioning service members determine their eligibility for jobs. By putting their military occupational specialty into a program to find a civilian-equivalent job, they’re coached on how to compete for a job, what it pays, and how and where those particular jobs are available across the country, Ortiz said. The program also allows service members to apply for jobs online.
  • Hiring Our Heroes is a DOL program that partners with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to conduct job fairs in cities across the country, Ortiz said. Hiring officials from the local area talk to transitioning service members and veterans about their companies, and can interview and even hire them on the spot or later, he said.
  • The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program is training in which DOL, the Veterans Affairs Department and other agencies work together to give veterans’ employment “the full push,” Ortiz said. DOL and the VA have created a seamless transition in VRAP, he said, to help veterans find jobs. It is open only to veterans who are between the ages of 35 and 60, unemployed and have exhausted all benefits for job training.

Under VRAP, Ortiz said, DOL determines a veteran’s eligibility, then VA works with them to decide what abilities they have. The VA also arranges for training and certification in their field, and returns them to DOL to begin looking for work through the One-Stop-Career center program.

Service members have grown up in the military culture of success, and working as a team is their mindset until they look for a job on their own, Ortiz said.

“They don’t have that person in front, beside or behind them to protect them anymore,” he said. “We train them to be successful. … We want to transition them and let them know that they, in fact, do have a person in front, right next to them and behind them.”

Because service members sometimes struggle to translate military skills into civilian job skills, Ortiz suggests hiring officials put the resume aside in an interview and rely more on talking to the veteran applicant. “Nine times out of ten, what the hiring official is looking for, that individual already has,” he said.

“I tell [hiring managers], ‘Do you really think an 18-year-old kid who came into the service and learned how to put together and take apart a radar system of an F-18 aircraft really had all those skill sets when he first walked in? He or she had to learn those things. And if they’re able to do that, imagine what they’ll be able to do in any company.'”

There also are the “intangibles” of employing veterans, he said, such as loyalty, duty, honor, trustworthiness, a solid work ethic, and how as team members, they work under pressure.

“You have someone who will work because it’s part of their culture,” Ortiz said. “They want to be successful … and bringing that success in will also build the company up.”


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