Highlights from the SHRM 2010 Military Event; What Employers Need to Know About the New DOL Job Corps Demonstration Project for Veterans

Kudos to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for incorporating a new session at its annual conference which focused on issues surrounding military veterans entering or returning to the civilian workforce.  The 2010 Annual Conference and Expo, which concluded on June 30th in San Diego, offered a modified 2-day program entitled Military Veterans: Transitioning Skills to the New Economythe weekend before the conference kicked off.  The unique two-track program offered:

  • For employers: Insights to recruiting and retaining military, as well as an overview of translating military culture and values to civilian.
  • For veterans: Insider (read: recruiter-provided) information on how to apply for jobs and translate military skills to civilian nomenclature and adapt to a civilian work environment.

First, the bad news:  Low employer attendance.  I counted roughly 35 people in the room (once the sessions split into their tracks), but that included the speakers and their entourages, a number of vendors offering military-placement services, and SHRM supporting staff.  So the number of actual employers/HR professionals in attendance was probably closer to 20.  I feel this had a lot to do with limited promotion of the event, not lack of employer interest. I didn’t find out about the event until about 30 days earlier – and all I do is talk to employers about hiring military, so you might think I’d be in the know about these things :-).  For those HR professionals who made their flight arrangements early, it would have been tough (and expensive) to change plans under short notice, no matter how interested a person was to hear the information.

The good news (and there is a lot of it):

In case you are not familiar with Job Corps, it recruits, provides free education and career training and placement services to over 60,000 students ages 16-24 annually.

VETs (Ray’s office) and Job Corps are partnering in a demonstration project that will provide Job Corps’ comprehensive array of career development services to eligible veterans 20 to 24 years old to prepare them for successful careers.  This is an accelerated, customized program developed specifically for veterans. This program recognizes the maturity and life experience that veterans have gained from their military experience

Up to 300 service members can participate in this demonstration.  This is a fully-funded, all-expense-paid demonstration project which includes transportation to and from the Job Corps center, housing, meals, basic medical services, academic and career technical training, bi-weekly living allowance, and job placement and post-graduation support.

Career technical training options include, but are not limited to:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Automotive and Machine Repair
  • Construction
  • Finance and Business
  • Healthcare
  • Homeland Security
  • Hospitality
  • Information Technology
  • Renewable Resources and Energy
  • Retail Sales and Services
  • Transportation

Upon completion of training, Veterans will be assigned to a career transition counselor to assist them with job placement or enrollment in higher education.

Veterans always have the option to enroll in Job Corps training programs at any of the 123 Job Corps Centers across the US; however, this veteran-specific program, while in its year-long demonstration/pilot phase is being run out of only 3 Job Corps Centers:

  1. Atterbury Job Corps Center in Edinburgh, Indiana;
  2. Earle C. Clements Job Corps Center in Morganfield, Kentucky; and
  3. Excelsior Springs Job Corps Center in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

Veterans:  To  enroll click here go to the Job Corps recruitment site

The enrollment at any of those three centers will be open and continuous until a center reaches 100 Veterans. It is expected that Veteran participants will be enrolling and graduating at various rates. Although Job Corps has set aside 300 slots for the demonstration project, actual participation during the year may exceed that number due to the continuous enrollment.   By the end of the demo year DOL wants to show demand for the program and its effectiveness so they can look to expand it.

So, here is my call to action to employers & higher education institutions:

Having a bunch of really well trained, highly-experienced veterans sitting around unemployed is not going to demonstrate a successful program.  The Job Corps wants to partner with you to make this veteran-specific program a success.

HOW you can partner:

  • Internships: Job Corps offers many work-based learning programs and they need employers to offer those internship opportunities.  It’s a Win-Win for all parties:  The veteran gets to demonstrate his/her exceptional skills in a civilian environment; the employer gets a skilled intern at no cost, and has first dibs when it’s time to hire.
  • Entry-level hiring: If you are hiring now or anticipate hiring in the next 6-12 months for entry-level positions, the Job Corps will screen eligible students to give you the best possible candidates.  Build a relationship NOW with your local Job Corps contacts to better position your company at the top of the list when the veteran-students graduate from their programs.
  • Degree Programs: Some Job Corps centers have cooperative agreements with community colleges or related institutions to teach career area courses or to have individual students take courses to gain college credit. Job Corps will also work with students to help them transfer into college programs when appropriate.  Colleges/Universities: If you are not currently partnered with your local Job Corps Center, get on the band wagon now, in advance of this program being rolled out nation-wide.

WHY you should partner:

  • Training tailored to your company’s needs: Your company can establish a training partnership with Job Corps.  Job Corps will specifically tailor their programs to teach the skills your company is looking for in its employees.  For example, Walgreens has a Pharmacy Technician training program offered in a number of Job Corps centers.
  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Hiring veterans through this program can save you money at tax time by earning you tax credits under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program.  Refer to the two earlier blogs I wrote on how to apply for the WOTC.

For complete details including brochures and fact sheets on the program go to http://www.dol.gov/vets/jc-info.htm .

And, lastly, for my VOSB/SDVOB readers out there:  Job Corps spends $1.2B on operational, construction and rehabilitation contracts.   A quick search on Federal Business Opportunities for Department of Labor/Employment Training Administration (which runs Jobs Corps) shows over 500 active requests for proposals posted in the last 90 days.  Also, Job Corps is considering re-implementing the mentor-protégée program that will enable young entrepreneurs specifically veteran and service disabled veteran owned small business leaders to learn the Job Corps business model and how they can prepare their businesses to grow and prosper in this environment.

Lisa Rosser

The Value Of a Veteran