With more than a million veterans returning home to our nation’s shores over the next five years, we have an unprecedented opportunity – and a civic obligation – to strengthen their pathways to success. To prepare for their return home and their transition back to civilian life, the Obama Administration sought – early on– to bring diverse government partners to the table, calling for an interagency planning effort to support Service members’ career readiness.
In response to President Obama’s call to action for a career-ready military in August 2011, the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force was launched, under the leadership of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. This interagency effort has brought together a collaboration of federal agencies – including Education, the Small Business Administration, Labor, Homeland Security and the Office of Personnel Management, as well as our military services and National Guard and Reserves – as partners, working together on the first major redesign of the military’s Transition Assistance Program in over twenty years to develop a comprehensive, outcome-based re-entry program now called Transition Goals, Plans, Success (Transition GPS).
Each of the partner federal agencies is contributing leadership and resources to activate the implementation of Transition GPS, in accordance with the VOW to Hire Heroes Act signed into law November 21, 2011. Key to this work has been the development of a core 3-day curriculum, career readiness standards, three optional tracks for transition (Higher Education, Technical Training, and Entrepreneurship), as well as options for learning in brick-and-mortar classrooms and online. Throughout their participation, Service members will receive individualized counseling and support in the preparation of a transition plan. The program also provides Service members who are exiting active duty with an education transcript, resume, access to labor market information, employment and housing opportunities, benefits information, mentoring resources, and other support services.
Based on lessons learned from as early as 1991 when Congress mandated that a Transition Assistance Plan be enacted, this redesign is guided by the view that preparation for the transition from military to civilian life should begin upon entry to boot camp. Transition GPS is the way forward, ensuring that our separating military men and women prepare for educational advancement and career opportunities throughout their lives. With the availability of military training, courses, and online certificate and degree opportunities, Service members will design an individual education and career plan to guide their future, both during and after their term of duty.
Today, many colleges and universities provide academic credit for individual courses, full programs of study and prior learning acquired on ships, during combat and at base locations worldwide. In the next few years, Transition GPS will provide the pathways for veterans re-entering their communities with career-ready education and training for success in the workforce. Some will exit having earned their high school diplomas, GEDs, and/or their associates’, bachelors’ or masters’ degrees. Others will seamlessly continue their education or training following their military careers in quality, affordable educational programs, taking advantage of internships or apprenticeships to be fully ready for their chosen careers.
Federal agency partners working with Military and Veterans Service Organizations have committed to maximizing resources, aligning benefits for Service members, and reducing duplication and system inefficiencies to best facilitate Service members’ transition to civilian life. More than 60 percent of jobs will require some postsecondary education or training: we want all of our veterans to take advantage of the variety of benefits available to them, so that they can choose an educational program with good job prospects that will serve them well.
Our collective goal – aspiring for every veteran to have a seamless pathway to pursuing future employment opportunities with career-ready knowledge and skills for success – is ambitious, but Transition GPS is a key component in strengthening that journey. Whether a veteran needs financial planning, an educational program like Troops to Teachers, help on campus from an experienced counselor, claims assistance, disability or other medical services from the VA, guidance on accessing federal student aid or navigating college and university opportunities, or help from the SBA to set up a small business, we stand at an extraordinary moment in time to welcome our men and women home and serve them and their families better than we’ve ever done in the past to prepare them for bright and prosperous futures.
Rosye Cloud is the Director of Policy for Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families at the White House. Martha Kanter is the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.