Uniform Coverage: Helping Vets Package Their Skills for the Private Sector

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As the United States draws down its involvement in foreign wars, thousands of veterans are swelling the ranks of American civilians seeking employment. As many as a third of them have skills much in demand by a resurgent manufacturing sector, but they often have trouble getting interviews. However, when the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound (CAMPS) recently put 22 of these veterans through a three-day, 24-hour course called Military to Manufacturing—or M2M—Career Pathways, nearly three-fourths received immediate job offers.

The course teaches veterans to use common hand tools and read drawings. Students also learn about shop safety and basic concepts such as lean manufacturing. They are given a mechanical aptitude test that recommends whether an individual should be a machinist, an assembler or a support person. More significant, the veterans learn which of the skills they learned in the military are valuable to private-sector employers.

“These vets are working on the world’s most advanced equipment, whether its communications equipment or aircraft,” says Tom McLaughlin, executive director at CAMPS, a nonprofit organization that helps manufacturers find workforce solutions. “Seven of the 10 skills required for an aircraft technician are skills important on the shop floor, but they [the veterans] don’t think to put those skills on their résumés.”

A private employer might not understand, for example, that a person who has done maintenance work on military helicopters has the ability to do math calculations, handle diagnostic tests, implement quality control and do operational monitoring, says McLaughlin.

M2M, which CAMPS developed in partnership with the Washington National Guard, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs and Green River Community College, will train 460 veterans during the next year in locations across the state.

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