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Education Alternatives Offer Exciting Career Transition Opportunities for Military Veterans

The EvoLLLution | Education Alternatives Offer Exciting Career Transition Opportunities for Military Veterans
By improving access to flexible, alternative postsecondary credentials, colleges and universities can make huge strides in smoothing the transition into the civilian labor market for military veterans.

Veterans leave the military having received a significant amount of training along with a wealth of work and life experiences to draw upon. Service members are trained in one of over 7,000 jobs across more than 100 functional areas in the military. Current and pending Reductions in Forces (RIF) will result in a significant influx of these talented individuals into the civilian workforce. The figures are not available from all branches yet, but the ones that are reveal staggering numbers of soldiers (40,000) and Marines (9000) leaving the service.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Post 9/11 generation of veterans is expected to increase by 36 percent as early as 2019. Federal programs such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit have encouraged companies to hire veterans and have kept veteran unemployment rates below the national average thus far. It’s unlikely that the status quo will be enough when the full impact of RIF is felt.

The answer to this coming storm may lie within higher education. The vast majority of military jobs have a direct civilian equivalency. Certificate programs such as the Rutgers Mini-MBA: Business Management for Military and Veterans can help identify and leverage the subtleties between the military and civilian uses of things like strategy, leadership and supply chain management. Certificate programs are particularly beneficial for this demographic because they are usually shorter in duration than degree programs. The accelerated format enhances their appeal, as it allows for the quickest possible military-to-civilian transition.

Undergraduate and graduate degree programs are additional options. They can be completed instead of, or in addition to, a certificate program. Rutgers Business School provides a three-credit elective waiver toward an MBA or Executive MBA to those who successfully complete a Mini-MBA. Other universities have similar opportunities associated with their certificate programs, with some referring to them as “advanced standing.”

But unaccustomed to an abundance of choices, having a plethora of options may initially seem overwhelming to the veterans new to campus. Ann Treadaway, director of Rutgers Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services notes that the most popular major among student veterans is “undecided.” And her counterparts at other Big 10 schools attest to seeing the same at their institutions.

One of the unexpected ways in which higher education can positively impact the military to civilian transition is by training civilian employers. Joe Schaffer, associate dean of executive education at Rutgers Business School says, “civilians and civilian employers play an invaluable role in helping veterans make successful transitions from the military to business careers. At Rutgers Business School, we feel strongly that the burden of career transition doesn’t lie solely with veterans, but also resides squarely with civilian employers.”

Referring primarily to human resource professionals, hiring managers and immediate supervisors, as well as those responsible for diversity and inclusion, veterans’ initiatives and employee resource groups, there is a need for military cultural competencies within civilian organizations.

In a recent webinar touching on the topic of cultural competencies, Treadaway gave a brief “Military 101,” which consisted of common acronyms and jargon, and even defined what a veteran is. It’s surprising to note how many definitions exist and just how much they vary. But it was very reassuring to have webinar participants from businesses, large and small, who wanted to learn more about educating their current employees to provide a warm and enduring welcome to new veteran hires.

Career transitions are a given, and are inevitable for those leaving military service.  Colleges and universities, along with civilian employers, can ease the transition process by providing more flexibility and opportunity for veterans to gain the skills they need to enter into—and ultimately succeed in—today’s challenging business environment.

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