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Translating Veterans' Skills into Veterans' Jobs

Organizations and companies throughout America are stepping up to help with veterans’ “skill translation” – and the timing is important: more than 1,000,000 veterans will be transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workforce in the coming years.

America’s veterans are national and civic assets. Veterans bring extraordinary skills and experience to the civilian work force when they leave the work force – and it's clear that companies want to hire veterans because it’s good for their bottom line.

But translating one’s military experience into language that is easily understood by civilian employers can sometimes be one of the most difficult tasks a veteran in transition faces. Let’s use me as an example: I’ve been in the Navy for 27 years -- my major skill sets are: driving warships, firing Tomahawk missiles and finding stealthy submarines in the ocean’s depths. Let’s face it, while those talents work well in the Navy, there just aren’t a lot of companies who need those specific skills.

The good news is: organizations and companies throughout America are stepping up to help with veterans’ “skill translation” -- and the timing is important: more than 1,000,000 veterans will be transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workforce in the coming years.

Last November, through the President’s leadership, the White House coordinated a public-private effort with the Departments of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor -- along with major tech companies -- to establish the Veterans Job Bank, a single site with a built-in skills translator and more than 800,000 jobs for veterans today.

Skill translators take military jargon, along with military occupational specialty codes, and translate those experiences to language better understood by America’s private sector employers. Here’s an example: if you are a Navy Fire Control Specialist with a 1113 specialty (Radar Operator) looking for a job following your enlistment, you may refer to yourself as a Fire Control Specialist. In civilian parlance: that sounds like you dealt with firefighting -- that’s a wonderful skill set with lots of application, but in fact, you spent years getting trained on how to operate, maintain and repair the most sophisticated radar systems in the world. A skill translator takes your specialty, translates it into terms readily understandable to the civilian workforce, and in the case of the Veterans Job Bank, tells you where the jobs are that match your specialty and experience.

And the Department of Veterans Affairs has a great site called VetSuccess -- on this site, there are several skill translators, as well as a whole host of resources to help veterans with transition and employment efforts. Beyond identifying resources, VA is also actively connecting our nation’s veterans with job opportunities -- check out the VA Detroit Hiring Fair taking place June 26-28, 2012 as an example -- more than 20,000 jobs will be available at the fair to veterans throughout the country, not just in Detroit.

It’s just not the government doing great work. Companies throughout the private sector have made commitments through the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces initiative to step up and they’ve built their own skills translators to help veterans translate their skills into meaningful employment opportunities. Many of these companies like AT&T, Microsoft, and have translators available today. Also, many companies and organizations have established dedicated sites for hiring veterans and military spouses like Sodexo, Disney, the “Troops to Tech initiative” and the “Troops to Energy Jobs Program.”

And just last week, the Google Veterans Network joined forces with the Student Veterans of America (SVA) and organized 14 “Help a Hero Get Hired “workshops in 10 cities across the country. These workshops are designed to help veterans translate their skills and experience into a resume that is relevant for the civilian workplace -- with the added bonus of providing an opportunity for veterans to gain job search advice and interview tips from Google staffing professionals, many of whom are also veterans. To date, 210 Google employees and 200 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans participated workshops in Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Austin, Cambridge, Los Angeles, Charleston, Mountain View, New York City, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

Connecting our nations’ veterans with meaningful employment is an absolute priority -- and through continued efforts like those mentioned above, we can serve America’s veterans as well as they’ve served us.

Brad Cooper is the Executive Director of Joining Forces. Learn more about the Joining Forces initiative: Visit, like Joining Forces on Facebook and follow @JoiningForces on Twitter.