Apprenticeships smooth veteran work transition

Employers have implemented a variety of newfangled ways to help veterans transition from military life to the civilian work world, but it’s an old training strategy that could offer the most promise — apprenticeships.

“Entering a new field can be difficult, especially when you possess all the core skills but lack some of the lingo, perspectives, and specific task training used in a new field. For such employees returning to school full-time is too great an investment for the amount of learning needed and may conflict with economic demands such as supporting a family,” explained Ken Matos, director of research for Families and Work Institute and co-author of a just released veteran report titled “Employer Support for the Military Community.”

Apprenticeships, he continued, “can be an ideal alternative to degree programs for experienced employees who just need to round out their skill set, not start from scratch. Paid apprenticeships are best because they provide greater economic stability during the learning period, removing the frustrating choice between earning a living today and earning a better living tomorrow.”

Several companies that offer such apprenticeship programs are featured in the new report, in addition to a host of programs to help veterans find and keep careers, and also those that support military families.

Here are some examples of apprenticeship and other on-the-job learning offerings from top employers:

* General Electric offers apprenticeships in many of its businesses, but the Get Skills to Work program is specifically designed to train veterans in the basic manufacturing skills needed in their facilities and those of their partners and suppliers. The program was designed to close the gap in manufacturing employers’ needs while also offering a career in the manufacturing industry for veterans leaving the service.
* Goldman Sachs’ launched the Veterans Integration Program (VIP) in 2012, an eight-week program that provides transitioning service men and women exiting the military an opportunity for professional skills training and education in financial services. Veterans receive two rounds of 360º feedback from peers and managers, participate in weekly team meetings, and present deliverables to senior managers. In addition to their day-to-day roles, participants take advantage of training and networking opportunities with senior management.
* Merck has established Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS), a work-study program, that helps integrate veterans into the corporate workforce. As a service member’s tour of duty concludes, the WOS program readies these individuals through an intensive 13-week continuing education program. During the training period, veterans attend classes at a local university and work part-time at a sponsoring corporation.
* Lockheed Martin established a Department of Labor certified apprenticeship program targeted at severely wounded veterans for sub-contract management certification in 2006. It is a 2-year program, complete with on-the-job training, mentoring and monitoring, testing and progressive level certification. After successfully completing the 2-year program the employee is certified as a Sub-Contract Administrator able to work as an exempt employee at Lockheed Martin or anywhere in the defense industry. This program is also available for IT certification.
* Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s (MSKCC) Veteran to Research Study Assistants (RSA) Program focuses on newly transitioned service men and women who are interested in a career in research and healthcare. These veterans are trained to become RSAs who perform data collection and data entry and participate in data analysis for research projects, databases, and research protocols within MSKCC. This position develops research skills and creates the building blocks for a career at the center

Many of the initiatives these employers have taken make a lot of business sense, beyond just fostering the hiring of ex military employees, Matos pointed out.

“Other employee groups making a transition between fields and life stages (e.g., people with disabilities, retirees switching careers, caregivers returning to a new field after a leave, prisoners starting over) can benefit from apprenticeships,” he said. “Organizations that have large numbers of unfilled positions should consider whether devoting resources to a few weeks of intense training of new entrants to the field is less costly and more effective than trying to poach employees from competitors.”

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