Reposted from US News and World Report (link follow story)
For Veterans to Prosper in STEM Workforce, Employers Need to Help With Post-Military Transition
There are programs helping to prepare today’s veterans for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Mike Grice, a member of the board of directors for Medtech and Biotech Veterans Program, has heard his fair share of people say, “We don’t hire veterans because they’re a liability.”
After serving for Uncle Sam, veterans often have skills that would make them ideal employees in a range of industries, but four words can keep them in the unemployment line: post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mike Grice, a member of the board of directors for Medtech and Biotech Veterans Program, has heard his fair share of people say, “We don’t hire veterans because they’re a liability.” People think they’ll go “postal” because of PTSD, says Grice, who served for 27 years in the United States Marine Corps.
But PTSD isn’t something that just affects veterans, he said, during a panel discussion at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference on June 29 in San Diego. Anyone who’s been in a car crash and then has trouble sleeping also carries this label.
Talking one on one with retired military professionals can help to dispel the fear that all veterans suffer from PTSD and show “we’re not all crazy,” he says.
Grice was joined by Matt Brogdon, the base engagement and public relations manager for the military division at Microsoft; and Beth McCormick, the recruitment and diversity manager at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Patricia Reily, the veterans services director at California State University—San Marco, moderated the panel, which discussed why veterans are strong employees and how more employers can successfully put them to work at jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math.
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Veterans are an elite group that must show a certain level of intelligence just to get into the military.
“Only three out of 10 young people can even qualify for the military today,” Reily says.
Those that make it in may develop some of the same skills that any CEO would have.
“Everything that you do in your organization happens in the military, too,” Grice says. The armed services also has people who can lead and innovate, he says.
“It’s just a variation on a theme.”
Veterans sometimes need a little more training to land a STEM job and employers like McCormick’s are willing to give them just that.
[MORE: Is Enough Being Done to Prepare Veterans for Civilian Jobs?]
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory recently helped to develop a two-year degree program that gives veterans technical training in engineering.
Two-year programs can be a financial blessing for veterans who advance their education with the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which provides up to 36 months of education benefits for approved programs.
Companies should consider paid internships for veterans to help get them through school, Reily says. It often takes longer than 36 months to complete a STEM degree, she says.
Veterans are often used to working in high-stress environments that require them to quickly come up with solutions for problems, and work in jobs that require technical training, panelists said.
But military life can be very different from civilian life, and to help veterans successfully transfer out of the service, employers should consider surrounding them with like-minded individuals who can help them adjust, Brogdon says.
“They have to be in with other people” who are like them, McCormick says. This doesn’t mean partnering a veteran with just any other veteran, but pairing people who served during the same era, she says.
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A great onboarding strategy is to create a peer network for vets within a company so that they have people they can relate to and speak to with ease about life at work, Brogdon says.
Helping them transition is an important part of tapping into a workforce that may be underutilized. Getting out of the military, which offers a set career trajectory, is likely an afterthought for many.
“Nobody joined the military to get out,” Grice says.