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Developing Delaware’s Workforce through retired Military

Recently, Democratic Gov. John Carney stressed the need to expand Delaware’s economy by building a stronger workforce for the future.  He stressed that this may be the state’s biggest single challenge. His remarks ring a little hollow when the state fails to utilize one of our largely untapped resources – our Delaware veterans.

Today, there are over 70,000 veterans in Delaware. Many are retired after 20 years of service from our respective armed forces with 20 years or more of civilian work life remaining before full retirement. Many retirees receive hundreds of thousands of dollars of high-level education in a variety of fields of endeavor. A majority of veterans say their military service is an important asset for their transition to civilian life and useful in giving them the skills they need for a job outside the military.  A recent PEW research survey points out that over 58% of veterans seeking employment found their military experience was useful or fairly useful in their new civilian jobs.  Military leadership training is invaluable, especially in leadership. Our state recognizes this invaluable commodity and has mentioned this a source for recruitment, but has not placed the necessary emphasis for permanent recruiting. Governor Carey did not highlight this resource in his recent State of the State address. He did address the shortage of teachers and pay issues but did not suggest that efforts should be pursued to encourage retired or separated military personnel to help fill the gaps.  In Delaware, we have the largest air mobility base in the United States with approximately 11,000 airmen and joint force personnel, civilians and families.  Delaware service men and women responsible for global airlift aboard C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster aircraft in support of our armed forces. The United States Air Force cannot conduct these operations without personnel trained in electronics, communications, aerospace and maintenance with sophisticated equipment. Every year many air force personnel retire and look for employment.  Many serve in our state in civilian capacities, yet we do not actively recruit retirees as a labor policy.  We also have active national guard and military service reserve units in the state where they receive military training in their respective military fields of specialties.  This training can easily translate to civilian life and jobs. Delaware should make it a priority to actively recruit at active military locations to fill the gaps for jobs.

The United States Department of Defense manages the Skill Bridge Program as an opportunity for active-duty service members to gain valuable civilian work skills and experience during their last 180 days of service.  Opportunities exist for this program to prepare separating service members to build resources, make important contacts, and explore employment while still active in preparation for the civilian workforce.  The State and civilian employers should take advantage of this preparatory program to help fill unemployment gaps.

It is important for the state to establish and maintain close partnership with the Veterans Administration (VA) in this arena. No mention of this important contact was emphasized in the Governor’s comments.

As a final note, the VA offers the Veterans Employment Service Office for career preparation and transition services to implement the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act. A close partnership with the VA and the State of Delaware would increase employment opportunities for our ever-increasing veteran population.