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Commentary: Industry credentials are solid first step in transition

Jul. 16, 2014 - 04:46PM   |  
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Many programs and initiatives have been launched over the past few years to help veterans get civilian jobs, and many employers have committed to hire and even train veterans. But a creative initiative embedded in the 2014 Defense Authorization Act can give transitioning service members an advantage even before they hang up their uniforms.

Under this initiative, all the services are required to provide active-duty members with an opportunity to secure a civilian manufacturing industry credential while still in service. That allows them to make an immediate transition into industry careers while spending little or no time unemployed.

For the military, the one-time investment in providing tuition assistance or other funding for certifications, credentials and licensure can save thousands per person in unemployment compensation for former service members.

Depending on when the credential is earned, the military also benefits from the knowledge and skills learned by the member in civilian training programs for as long as that member remains in service.

This training increases the readiness of our military at a very low cost and provides lifelong learning opportunities and pathways both in and out of the military. Moreover, with the costs for research, development of training materials and programs of instruction carried by industry — not the military — the programs remain current and affordable.

When the member does transition to the civilian workforce, the credential is portable and communicates to employers that this person has gone the extra mile to be prepared from Day 1.

Yet another benefit of the program is that many credentials count toward college or continuing education credit. This is especially important for young veterans who may serve only one or two enlistments and have not earned a college degree. The industry credential can get their foot in the door with an employer, with a college, or both.

The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council has conducted several pilots for its Certified Logistics Technician program with the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy over the past two years.

The results show troops have an aptitude for the material but difficulty with civilian terminology. This supports the theme often heard at hiring fairs and job interviews that the military and the civilian workforce don’t speak the same language. Providing access to industry credentials and training can ease or eliminate this language barrier.

A second phase of our CLT pilot focused on introducing civilian industry language and concepts through online training. It shows promising preliminary results indicating that with some basic training, troops can earn CLTs at the same or higher rates than the national average.

To really make this work, transition offices for each service and even each installation must have situational awareness and inform troops of the credentials available to them and those desired by industry that provide employment opportunities.

Employers near installations must do their part by working with transition offices and training providers in the community to ensure that certification and credentialing programs are available to active-duty and reserve component personnel as well as veterans.

The Defense Department and Congress have taken great steps over the past two years in this credentialing initiative. If we continue along this path, we can significantly reduce future unemployment among new veterans by giving them the tools they need to succeed in the civilian workforce as they transition from service.

Industry-recognized, nationally portable credentials offer these men and women entry to exciting career pathways that play a critical role in the strength of America’s industrial base.

Leo Reddy is chairman and CEO of the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, a nonprofit certifying body that issues the Certified Logistics Technician and Certified Production Technician certifications.

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