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Camo2Commerce offers service members stability during transition period

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:39PM June 12th, 2014

Often getting hired at a new job can depend on who you know, but at Joint Base Lewis-McChord all service members have an “in” to the career fields they’re investigating after the military.

“We tell businesses why they want to look at the workforce here on JBLM,” said Sean Murphy, Camo2Commerce project director. “Some employees call us first and military members might go to the top of the stack. We want to develop the best process for seamless transitions.”

The Camo2Commerce team at JBLM is using a $5.5 million National Emergency Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay for everything from job training and career counseling to supplies for new jobs and making connections with businesses.

“Getting out of the military is scary, and there is lots of transitioning going on,” said Cheryl Fambles, chief executive officer at Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, a Camo2Commerce partner. “The most important thing for those military members is stability and knowing they will be going into a job.”

Pacific Mountain applied for the grant to pay for the Camo2Commerce program in 2013 after classifying transitioning service members as “dislocated workers,” which the DOL had never before allowed.

The DOL allowed the change in the classification largely because of the reduction in force, which will greatly impact JBLM’s almost 50,000 active-duty members, Murphy said. This will lead to an estimated 8,000 troops exiting the military at JBLM each year during the next four years, he said.

By having this title, service members can tap into the grant money and enroll in the program 12 months before their expiration of time and service up to six months after. In 2015, the team will likely apply to extend the grant, Murphy said.

“It’s a full-service team with a full menu of options,” Murphy said. “We want service members to come in here and say ‘I don’t know what to do next,’ because we can help.”

To accommodate the program’s continued growth, the Camo2Commerce team moved its offices to the Bud Hawk Transition Center on Lewis North, and held its official opening there June 6. Murphy said the organization will continue to have a small presence at the Stone Education Center, its previous location, on Lewis Main.

By moving to the Lewis North building “we get more space and are closer to the Transition Assistance Program, where a lot of the transition work happens,” Murphy said. “Where the TAP stops, at prep work, we keep on going. We are working hard to make sure we are not duplicating efforts.”

Some of the benefits of visiting the Camo2Commerce team are that they can pay half of the service member’s salary for the first three months of his or her civilian employment. This makes businesses more inclined to hire prior-service military and train them in new fields, Murphy said.

They can also purchase equipment for military members, like tools for a construction job or uniforms — requirements of the job.

Another huge benefit is the job training programs that allow transitioning service members to train for high-demand fields in less than 20 weeks, Murphy said. Camo2Commerce partners run most of the programs; some already in full force, with many more starting throughout the year, he said.

One program, the Microsoft Systems and Software Academy, gives service members 12 weeks of training and at the end, if in good standing, they will interview at Microsoft for potential jobs. Several service members have already been hired this way.

“We are working to launch a cloud computing and an advanced manufacturing program in September,” Murphy said. “These two will be followed by programs in human Resources; banking, finance and accounting; health IT; and possibly others in sales and retail management and logistics.”

Murphy added C2C is working to develop workshops in federal and state resume writing, networking and interviewing. He said he wants to share the program with other states and installations.

“We have the intention of becoming the national model,” Murphy said. “We are the only ones to use these grant dollars in the country.”

He said by keeping the program going, his team shows its appreciation to those who serve every day.

“We always get wrapped up in Memorial Day and other holidays, but we need to remember every day,” Murphy said. “This amazing team gets to remember what service members do every day.”