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Service members get ‘no-fluff’ career advice

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:09PM June 19th, 2014

Command Sergeant Major Kevin W. Bryan doesn’t want transitioning service members to get a job.

He wants them to start a career.

The base command sergeant major put his reputation where his mouth is by holding a transitions forum for service members June 11 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Carey Theater.

“The no-fluff is this,” Bryan said to the 200 service members who attended. “The military spends about half a billion dollars a year on unemployment. That’s money we could use for training for combat. We’ve gotta fix that.”

Congress and the Pentagon seek to reduce the size of the Army, but no one knows for sure how the federal government will get there.

Bryan said he brought together several apprenticeships and programs for the forum to show service members what they can access to help them transition from the military.

Robin Baker, JBLM transition services manager, said a lot has changed in the past two years when it comes to helping service members. JBLM has added first-in-the-nation apprenticeship programs to the Armed Forces Career Alumni Program’s roster, each of which pays more than minimum wage and can lead to annual salaries of $80,000 and more.

Service members today receive mandatory transition counseling, Baker said, with access to career plans, workshops and briefings. AFCAP also holds special classes that certain professions require as prerequisites.

Baker highlighted the apprenticeships as “enhanced opportunities,” adding that “those are 100 percent guaranteed placement.”

The Stone Education Center director, Amy Moorash, said the apprenticeships essentially are four-year college degrees, as service members get college credit after completing them.

“A lot of times I talk to service members, and they say they’re not college material,” Moorash said. “So understanding that vocational/technical training is in fact college material, you need to look at it a little bit differently.”

The programs involve a variety of trades, mostly unionized. From trucking to HVAC, painting to pipefitting, service members who know how to get their hands dirty can complete these programs and, at the end, gain careers in these fast-growing fields.

Another program offered, the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy, is unique, Moorash said. Recruiter and Army veteran Michael Curry said service members can get into the 16-week course, offered through Saint Martin’s University, while they are in the military. Using a portion of their GI Bill, service members are guaranteed interviews with Microsoft and other partner companies upon successful completion of the course.

The forum also featured several organizations for service members unsure of where they want to go or what they want to do next. They included: RallyPoint 6, founded by two local veterans; Camo2Commerce; The Military to Manufacturing Career Pathway and others.

William McLaurin, the HVAC-R instructor for the United Association’s Vets in Piping program, said that too many candidates applying for trades are unprepared for the work and the educational demands. He called those candidates “Generation Z,” while service members represented “Generation A+.”

“There’s nothing we can do to pay you back for what you did “in the service,” McLaurin said, “but we think this is a start.”

Baker said links to events featuring these programs, and others, can be found at the Stone Education Center’s website www.lewis-mcchord.army.mil/dhr/eso/Stone.htm. For hiring events, go to AFCAP’s Facebook page. Search for JBLM.ACAP, then click “more” and “events.”