Government hoping to help war veterans employment transition

By Pauline Jelinek

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 24 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

The redesigned program will have a fancier new name — Transition GPS. The administration is calling it the first major overhaul of a system started in the 1990s post-Cold War drawdown, though it's been updated in recent years to be more youth friendly with web-based information and workshops.

Acknowledging that troops already have some terrific experience, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the revised program will help them "apply their experience to additional training, formal education, and develop successful civilian careers."

A recent study by the Center for New American Security, a Washington think tank, said businesses want to hire new vets because they believe they have leadership qualities, teamwork skills, character, discipline, expertise, effectiveness, and loyalty.

Envisioning how vets might fit into their company is a different matter, said the study, which included interviews with 87 unidentified businessmen representing 69 companies.

"The most prominent obstacle to hiring veterans," it said, is that "both civilians and members of the military have a hard time translating military skills into civilian job qualifications."

Employers also said their fears include concern:

—that troops with post traumatic stress may be "damaged" or have violent tendencies.

—that National Guard and Reserve troops will be called up for duty, leaving the company short-handed.

—that the majority of post-9-11 vets lack the college degrees or industry-specific expertise they'd need for senior positions, yet don't want lower level jobs employers feel are more appropriate for them.

—that vets too often seek jobs that they don't have the education or skills to do.

"There are folks who get it, are coming out of the service and say 'I realize I'm not going to be CEO,'" said Devin B. Holmes, CEO of Warriorgateway.org, a portal to help troops find help with employment, health questions, education and a range of other transition needs.

"There are also folks coming out and (saying) 'I want a GS14 position in the government,'" Holmes said, meaning the second highest level in the "General Schedule" of government pay — jobs that go to people with a lot of experience and/or a very high level of expertise in their field, and are management positions.

"You can achieve that if you work hard and do a good job ... but you're not going to get it on Day 1," Holmes said.

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