LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Jan. 8, 2014) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III visited UPS Inc. world headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, to lead a roundtable discussion with company leaders and area Soldiers to hear feedback about the Army's transition assistance program, Jan. 7.
Over the past year, Chandler has met with Soldiers, elected officials and business leaders to address the Army's concerns that Soldiers need more support as they transition from the Army and return to civilian employment across the country.
SOLDIER FOR LIFE -- TRANSITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program is intended to ensure all eligible transitioning Soldiers have the education, training and counseling necessary to be career-ready in the global workforce.
"In the past, a vast amount of the Army was finding out what they needed as they were going out the door," said Sgt. Maj. Anthony Williams, U.S. Army Human Resources Command's Transition Division Sergeant Major. "The current transition process is set up to give Soldiers the best opportunity to go from separation off of active duty to the civilian sector."
The current program includes briefings about Veteran's Affairs benefits and workshops on how to find jobs, draft resumes and write job search documents.
Frank Johnston, SFL-TAP manager for Fort Knox,Kentucky, helps Soldiers navigate the program.
"My concern is to make sure Soldiers who walk in get the best possible help. I want to make sure we don't lose the personal one-on-one touch that is helping individual Soldiers," Johnston said.
SFL-TAP requires transitioning Soldiers to develop an individualized plan with goals of pursuing either an education, technical, or entrepreneurial track.
"We have to do a better job in identifying transitioning Soldiers for businesses and matching their skills to the civilian sector in order to make them employment ready," Chandler said.
Many of the nation's biggest companies have been very strong supporters of the Army's transition assistance program in hiring veterans. The United Parcel Service, or UPS, for example, employs nearly 24,000 veterans, representing 7.5 percent of the company's U.S. domestic workforce and plans to hire 50,000 veterans by the end of 2018. The roundtable offered its human resource experts a chance to share some of their challenges and their successes so other companies can help transitioning Soldiers.
Many companies like UPS emphasize the importance of translating skills into civilian language and certifications.
"Military jargon can be a detractor when an HR person is looking at your resume," said Emmanuel Warren, UPS human resources manager. He recommended Soldiers use terminology civilian employers will easily understand.
Chandler said another challenge is Soldiers tend to undersell themselves. He said they need to better articulate what they did to contribute to the organization and highlight what they can do as an individual.
Several of the Soldiers and UPS hires said networking -- getting to know people who can assist in creating connections with potential employers -- is crucial when looking for a job. Chandler talked about the importance of creating a relationship and taking advantage of resources available.
"Referrals are a big part of how companies find people. There are resources out there like American Corporate Partners and Hire our Heroes that will place you with a mentor and provide career advice. I highly encourage people to take a look at them," Chandler said.
"Networking is the absolute key thing. If you have the opportunity to visit a company, do it," said Patrick O'Leary, UPS Veterans Affairs manager.
"UPS continues to look for every opportunity to connect with veterans and help in their transition into the civilian labor force," O'Leary said. "We are honored to get to welcome these Americans into our company or assist them in finding the right position for them elsewhere. The skills and experience they bring are a value to UPS or any other corporation."
Chandler thanked the UPS team for facilitating the roundtable and discussed the road ahead, especially for those companies that don't have the resources or reach of a company like UPS.
"Between the public and private sector, we have to do a better job of helping small business get greater access to the available amount of Soldiers who are transitioning. They are the economic engine for our country. They are having a challenge in having the same access as major corporations at job fairs and hiring fairs and so forth," Chandler said.
Chandler ended the roundtable by challenging Soldiers to be aggressive when going through their transition.
"It is your future and you have to take charge of it and do it a lot earlier than we have in the past," he said.
Like every other engagement with Soldiers over the past four years, Chandler will take the lessons learned from the roundtable back to the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff to assess how the Army can continue to improve the welfare of Soldiers and their families.