USA — Program Links Reservists, Guardsmen, Families to Jobs

WASHINGTON — A pro­gram that links reserve and Nation­al Guard mem­bers, their fam­i­lies and vet­er­ans with civil­ian employ­ers has reached a mile­stone, with more than 1,000 employ­ers now signed on to hire qual­i­fied job-seek­ers.

The Employ­er Part­ner­ship of the Armed Forces, orig­i­nal­ly an Army Reserve ini­tia­tive that has expand­ed mil­i­tary­wide, is grow­ing by leaps and bounds as it helps both the mil­i­tary and civil­ian employ­ers tap into the same tal­ent pool, report­ed Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, who found­ed the pro­gram.

In one of the more promis­ing new devel­op­ments, the Army Reserve, which still man­ages the pro­gram, is work­ing with the Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. to pro­vide hybrid vehi­cle cer­ti­fi­ca­tion train­ing and jobs to mil­i­tary mechan­ics, Stultz said.

“They are going to pro­vide the hybrid train­ing to our mechan­ics, because the Army does­n’t have that train­ing,” he said. “So they will pro­vide that train­ing at their expense.” In anoth­er inno­v­a­tive arrange­ment in the works, GE Health­care, which man­u­fac­tures MRI equip­ment and CT scan­ners, plans to hire mil­i­tary bio­med­ical equip­ment spe­cial­ists to main­tain it, the gen­er­al said.

Stultz said he has met twice with GE Health­care cor­po­rate offi­cer Mark Vachon to dis­cuss the con­cept.

“I can recruit kids or take cur­rent sol­diers I’ve got who want to get into that field,” he said. “Mike will take them and train them at his facil­i­ty in Mil­wau­kee and cer­ti­fy them.” From there, he added, the trainee will move into one of about 300 high-demand jobs GE Health­care opens each year around the coun­try.

Stultz calls the part­ner­ship ini­tia­tive a win-win sit­u­a­tion for every­one involved. Reserve-com­po­nent mem­bers get a leg up in a com­pet­i­tive job mar­ket. Employ­ers who under­stand their mil­i­tary oblig­a­tions guar­an­tee inter­views for qual­i­fied appli­cants, as well as pri­or­i­ty place­ment for open­ings. In return, employ­ers get to cap­i­tal­ize on the par­tic­i­pants’ mil­i­tary train­ing, while get­ting a qual­i­ty work­er many say is increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to come by.

Vachon at GE Health­care told Stultz he’s impressed with the qual­i­ty and integri­ty of employ­ees he gets through the pro­gram.

“I can take a sol­dier and I can trust that if that sol­dier goes to a hos­pi­tal to take care of equip­ment, he is going to do his job,” Stultz said, quot­ing Vachon. “He under­stands what ‘mis­sion first’ is all about.”

That’s the kind of feed­back Stultz said he hears reg­u­lar­ly from the 1,155 pro­gram part­ners: For­tune 500 com­pa­nies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Gen­er­al Elec­tric, as well as the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., police depart­ment, mom-and-pop com­pa­nies and every­thing in between. “We are see­ing more and more larg­er employ­ers like Gen­er­al Elec­tric, like Wal-Mart, com­ing on board and say­ing, ‘We want to be a part of that,’ ” he said.

“The thing that’s excit­ing about this is the employ­ers ‘get it,’ ” the gen­er­al added. While head­lines decry a fail­ing Amer­i­can edu­ca­tion sys­tem and the country’s inabil­i­ty to com­pete with the rest of the world, he said, employ­ees rec­og­nize a spe­cial tal­ent pool that has yet to be ful­ly lever­aged.

“Employ­ers of Amer­i­ca see this as a new class of work force,” Stultz said. “That is what we are hear­ing from the employ­ers. They talk about the qual­i­ty, the integri­ty, the ethics.” INOVA Health Sys­tems of North­ern Vir­ginia, which become one of the first for­mal mem­bers of what was then known as the Army Reserve Employ­er Part­ner­ship Ini­tia­tive in April 2008, “has gone gang­busters with it,” Stultz said.

The com­pa­ny ini­tial­ly joined the part­ner­ship to fill crit­i­cal job short­ages with reservists the Army trains in radi­ol­o­gy, res­pi­ra­to­ry ther­a­py and sur­gi­cal spe­cial­ties. But the expe­ri­ence proved so suc­cess­ful that INOVA branched out to cre­ate its own “Mil­i­tary to Med­i­cine” pro­gram that pro­vides a career path­way for vet­er­ans, mil­i­tary spous­es and recov­er­ing wound­ed war­riors.

Com­pa­ny offi­cials say they hope the spe­cial­ized edu­ca­tion, train­ing and hir­ing pro­grams pro­vid­ed through “Mil­i­tary to Med­i­cine,” plus trans­fer­abil­i­ty options offered to spous­es uproot­ed dur­ing mil­i­tary moves, help to attract qual­i­fied health care work­ers.

“They are focused on vet­er­ans, reserve sol­diers and spous­es, and they are hir­ing them all,” Stultz said. “And they are quan­ti­fy­ing suc­cess in terms of turnover, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and absen­teeism, and they are sav­ing mil­lions of dol­lars.”

Pro­gram offi­cials hope a new job-search appli­ca­tion tool they plan to roll out next month will take the part­ner­ship pro­gram to the next lev­el as it makes it eas­i­er for qual­i­fied job-seek­ers and employ­ers to con­nect.

As the ini­tia­tive con­tin­ues to grow, Stultz said, he sees oppor­tu­ni­ties for the mil­i­tary and civil­ian employ­ers to col­lab­o­rate in oth­er ways, such as in health care cov­er­age.

He not­ed that the Army Reserve and pri­vate employ­ers often over­lap cov­er­age as reservists get called to active duty, then demo­bi­lize. As a con­se­quence, both end up pay­ing more than nec­es­sary, and fam­i­ly mem­bers have to switch providers as they’re thrust from one sys­tem to anoth­er.

“There is a lot of effi­cien­cy to be had in terms of, ‘How do we part­ner with our employ­ers out there in cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca and share the cost togeth­er and save mon­ey?’ ” Stultz said. “Both of us can save mon­ey.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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