Op/Ed piece in the Union Tribune: Helping veterans transition into life sciences careers

I was fortunate to have an op/ed piece published in yesterday’s San Diego Union Tribune about helping veterans make the transition to life sciences careers, and I have reposted it below.  You can also read it here.

A healthy economy should provide opportunities for workers at all skill levels and at all stages of career development.

This includes the brave men and women of the military who have sacrificed so much for this country over more than a decade of war and global conflict.

American industry values workers who are at their best under pressure. These are the kind of people who can help a company grow and succeed.

And with the population of U.S. military veterans expected to rise by another 1 million over the next several years, we have a great asset before us ready to be unlocked to benefit the American economy.

This is particularly important in San Diego, one of the largest military cities in the United States — and the number one destination for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately the transition back to civilian life can be difficult — particularly when it comes to re-entering the workforce, or in some cases entering it for the first time. Some veterans experience difficulty translating their military experience to civilian work. Others need guidance on job search skills like creating a resume and being prepared for interviews.

The good news: some of our fastest growing industries are in the best position to use the skills of returning military veterans. This includes the medical technology and biotechnology fields — both of which are experiencing spectacular growth and demand for new workers. One newly expanded initiative, called the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program (MVP), was created specifically to connect companies in these industries with the workforce of military veterans.

MVP provides returning veterans with the resources, skills and confidence they need to achieve fulfilling careers in these fields, while also ensuring that potential employers have a diverse pool of talented employees from which to hire. These jobs — such as project managers, supply chain experts and human resources managers — don’t require an advanced STEM degree. But they do require a strong work ethic. People who can be part of a team, or lead one. People who make good decisions, while also being flexible. And people who — under some of the most difficult conditions you could imagine — are effective in new and different environments.

These qualities describe the successful American veteran.

In San Diego more than 240,000 veterans make up 13 percent of the city’s population. Close to 30,000 of them served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Veterans in San Diego — compared to the national average — also generally attain a higher level of education. A full 35 percent of San Diego area veterans hold a bachelor’s degree or higher; and 43 percent have at least some college experience or an associate degree.

As a veteran who has served overseas in a number of conflicts — including multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan — I understand the unique challenges that accompany the transition back to civilian life. These challenges are even more pronounced for younger veterans, many who have served this country in uniform for their entire adult lives and are accustomed to the formal, hierarchical structure of the military.

I’ve been at the receiving end of opportunities that have made it easier to successfully transition back to the civilian workforce. MVP seeks to ensure that returning military veterans have those same opportunities.

In San Diego on Saturday, MVP and Illumina will conduct a daylong, free event that includes seminars, working groups, and networking for mentors and veterans.

Since its inception in 2010, MVP has grown to include more than 150 veterans and 80 mentors through a program of active mentorship, job search training, and industry specific education.

In 2013 MVP’s founders recognized that it had the potential to grow from a regional initiative to a much larger national effort. As a result, MVP has now become an independent nonprofit entity charged with bringing 5,000 veterans into the life sciences industry by 2018, and 1,000 veterans per year after that — all funded by participating companies in the industry and at no cost to veterans.

More companies need to join this initiative. And other industries need to follow suit and begin making similar connections with the veteran workforce.

Our economy will be stronger as we bring more veterans into the fold. Let’s give them that opportunity.

Mike Grice, chief operating officer of the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program (www.mvpvets.org)

Transitionnews: Military/Veteran Jobs and Benefits news of the day for for 4/7/14

Good news story of the day

Project Transition USA Announces New Sponsor for LinkedIN Job Search Workshop on U.S. Military Base  (PR.com)  Project Transition USA, the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit that specializes in teaching transitioning military veterans and their families how to fully utilize the powerful business networking site LinkedIN, is pleased to announce their newest LinkedIN Job Search Workshop Sponsor.

Military Transition and Jobs News

Many returning military vets bound for college  (The Post and Courier)  After five years in the Marines, including a tour in Afghanistan in which he saw buddies die in combat, Andrew Kispert found going back to college as a new veteran one of his biggest challenges yet. For starters, there was the strangeness of resuming civilian life.

Job fair aims to help veterans find employment  (CBS News)  At a recent job fair in New York City, employers were looking to hire veterans, who lag behind the general population when it comes to employment. Many of the employers at the fair say veterans have useful skills that make them valuable employees.

Maine government is helping veterans find employment  (WCSH6)  Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation is conducting a series of educational outreach sessions to assist veterans and current service members with obtaining state occupational licenses.

State Representative hosts job event for veterans  (WCYB)  The U.S. Labor Department says employers added 192,000 jobs in March, but the jobless rate remained steady at 6.7 percent.

Veterans get help with employment at Stockton job fair  (Press of Atlantic City)

Post-9/11 monthly vet unemployment rate back down  (Military Times)  Following a big jump in February, the March unemployment rate for the latest generation of veterans saw an even bigger decrease, the Labor Department’s latest employment report shows.

Veterans News

Fort Hood shooting revives debate on guns, mental illness  (CBS)  Last week’s shooting at Fort Hood has reopened a debate about guns and mental health in the U.S. as lawmakers and public officials once again tackle the question of whether more can be done to address the rising threat of active shooter incidents.

Wounded Marine’s nonprofit aims to help with invisible injuries of war  (The Daily News)  From his darkest hour a dream was realized.

Iraq War amputee Chad Pfeifer invited to Tahoe celebrity golf tournament  (AZ Central)  When Chad Pfeifer lost his left leg during his deployment with the U.S. Army in Iraq, he thought his days as a competitor were done.

Vets react to shooting at Fort Hood  (Army Times)  Army veteran Rick Schumacher has a job interview next week, and he hopes the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting comes up.

Does labeling Fort Hood shooter with PTSD stigmatize combat vets?  (Christian Science Monitor)  Immediately after the Fort Hood rampage last week, many were quick to label the shooter as a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Benefits News

Veterans’ path to graduation can be twisty  (Miami Herald)  University of Minnesota student Zac Bair enlisted in the U.S. Army to help pay for college. After three deployments in Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment and his “fair share” of combat, Bair was honorably discharged. Soon after, he enrolled at the University.

Nebraska lawmakers expand veteran benefits  (KSL)  More Nebraska veterans will receive tax breaks, tuition benefits and a hiring preference for government jobs once a series of new laws go into effect.

Veterans commissioner wants more jobs, education  (SFGate)  Tennessee’s Commissioner for Veterans Affairs says the department is widening its focus to address needs like unemployment, education and suicide prevention.

Can system handle needs of all veterans?  (MSNBC)  Congressional Reporter for The Military Times Leo Shane III and Iraq War Veteran Staff Sergeant Dan Nevins talk about the aftermath of the shooting at Ft. Hood and if our system is prepared to take care of soldiers on the home front upon arriving back from war.

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Transitionnews: Military/Veteran Jobs and Benefits news of the day for for 4/4/14

Good news story of the day

USO opens new center for wounded warriors, families at Walter Reed  (Fox News)  The United Service Organizations opened the doors Tuesday to a new state-of-the-art center for wounded servicemembers and their families at the Walter Reed complex — a center designed as a place where troops can heal physically but also relax and, for moments at a time, escape.

Military Transition and Jobs News

Westminster to host bimonthly Veterans Job Club  (InsuranceNewsNet)  -More than 20 veterans from the mid-Maryland region attended the inaugural Veterans Job Club in Carroll County Friday and LeRoy Thomas has no doubt that attendance will grow in future events.

Free workshop will help Veterans use websites to find jobs, careers  (Tucson News Now)  Kino Veterans’ Workforce Center is hosting a free workshop on April 8, for veterans to help find them a job.

Hundreds turn out for Bossier veterans job fair  (KSLA)  The Bossier Chamber of Commerce hosted a job fair Thursday, specifically designed to help veterans and their spouses. Goodwill NWLA, Hero 2 Hired, and the City of Bossier City also pitched in as sponsors.

8,000 enlisted jobs taken off the chopping block  (Air Force Times)  More than 8,000 enlisted airmen’s jobs are no longer on the chopping block this year, according to the latest charts obtained by Air Force Times.

Pentagon should cut civilian, not military, personnel  (The Hill)  It isn’t often that Pentagon leaders find themselves without the support of their primary constituency, but that’s just what Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is facing today with his proposed severe reduction in the number of uniformed personnel.

AMR Staffing Agency Collaborates With “Work For Warrior Program”  (The Street)  Reaching out to help returning War Veterans and all people in uniform, David Zahler, AMR President and CEO met with Major General Keith D. Jones and First Lieutenant Christopher W. Freeman of the Work for Warrior Program, to discuss employment opportunities for men and women in uniform transitioning out of the military.

US Companies Reach Out to Hire Veterans  (Voice of America)  Despite an improving economy, U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still having difficulty finding jobs – and their unemployment rate of just under 10 percent is considerably higher than the national average.

Veterans News

How Can Government Battle a ‘Suicide Epidemic’ Among Veterans?  (National Journal)  The Fort Hood shooting is an extreme and shocking example of what has become a chronic concern for the military: soldiers with mental-health problems taking their own lives.

Gov. Scott Walker’s actions are a disservice to veterans  (Journal-Sentinel)  Gov. Scott Walker says he has the utmost gratitude and respect for the women and men who wear the uniform in service of our country.

Benefits News

Lawmakers scold DoD for medical records failure  (Air Force Times)  House lawmakers who hold the Pentagon’s purse strings berated the Defense Department on Thursday for failing to develop a joint electronic medical records system with the Veterans Affairs Department — an effort that has cost more than $1 billion since 2008 while producing scant results.

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Transitionnews: Military/Veteran Jobs and Benefits news of the day for for 4/3/14

Good news story of the day

MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program Announces New Jersey’s First Veteran and Transitioning Military Re-careering Seminar  (PR Newswire)  On April 29th, the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program (www.mvpvets.com) will host its inaugural re-careering event for transitioning military and veterans in New Jersey.

Military Transition and Jobs News

Businesses target veterans and civilians at job fairs   (Clearwater Gazette) Two job fairs planned for next week target veterans and the general public.

Front Porch: Veterans Job Fair  (Weekly Herald)  Naval Station Everett Fleet and Family Support Center will host a biannual Veterans Job Fair today from 10 a.m.-2p.m. at their Smokey Point Totem Recreation Center, 13922 45th Ave, Marysville.

Blunt sponsors bill to encourage hiring vets  (KSPR)  Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has introduced the “Hire More Heroes Act” (S.2190), bipartisan legislation aimed at encouraging companies to hire more American veterans. Blunt serves as a member of the bipartisan Congressional Veterans Job Caucus.

Free Career Programs for Veterans and Spouses  (Military.com)  The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University is currently enrolling eligible veterans and their spouses in an online program to enhance their career skills and job marketability.

Wanted: Heroes  (The Washington Post)  A two-tour Army veteran of the Afghanistan war pulled on a pair of old combat boots and headed off to his $8-an-hour job washing cars at a Ford dealership in Wichita Falls, Tex. “My military background don’t mean nothing,” he said. “I am just another guy with a GED.”

Veterans News

We aren’t doing enough to help veterans transition to civilian life  (The Washington Post)  George Washington once declared that “the willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

Iraq vet charged with soliciting money for Wounded Warriors, keeping it  (St, Louis Post Dispatch)  A wounded Iraq War veteran from St. Charles County is accused of soliciting unauthorized donations of at least $6,200 for the Wounded Warrior Project but keeping the money himself.

VA Pays $200 Million for Nearly 1,000 veterans’ Wrongful Deaths  (The Daily Beast)  Since 9/11 almost 1,000 veterans have died due to negligence in the Veterans healthcare system.

FDA Warnings to Body-Parts Vendors Overlooked by VA  (Bloomberg)  A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs safety office isn’t tracking a health agency’s warnings on the potential for contaminated body tissue, a federal auditor’s review found.

Benefits News

VA wants widow of WWII survivor to pay back benefits  (MyFoxAustin)  The widow of a Pearl Harbor survivor is not only fighting for her life but fighting with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Reno Veterans Affairs ‘Worst in Nation’ Rank Proves Need for Reform, Accountability   (The Blaze)  A recent Reno Gazette-Journal report cast a harsh light on the shameful reality of the local office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which has been ranked the “worst in the nation” for processing veterans’ benefit claims.

Betrayed military spouses often keep quiet for fear of losing benefits  (Los Angeles Times)  Within the tight circle of Army spouses, Kris Johnson and Rebecca Sinclair became close friends as their ambitious husbands advanced rapidly in the officer corps.

Senate Panel Signals Possible Future Relief from Full Sequester Cuts  (Seapower)  After provided a break from deep sequester cuts in fiscal 2014 and 2015, lawmakers seemed poised to continue easing up in future years as well.

House appropriators cut military construction spending  (The Hill)  The House Appropriations Committee is cutting spending on military construction in its first 2015 appropriations bill, while boosting funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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A few thoughts on job and career fairs, part 3: Industry sponsored events

Job and career fairs are not all the same, and this is the third in a string of posts about the different types of transitioning military and veteran job and career fairs.  In the last post we explored fairs that focus on open events held on military bases, and in this post we will shift from military bases to industry sponsored events in which a specific company, group of companies, or an industry hosts an event that focuses on their specific area.

Industry specific opportunities are usually centered around providing insights for veterans and transitioning military into what businesses within the industry specialize in, such as manufacturing, oil and gas production, financial services, and healthcare.  They are usually held outside the realm of military bases at either a hosting company’s facility or a hotel or conference center.  There is usually no cost for transitioning military or veterans to attend, and often there are industry-centered orientation an training seminars offered during the event.  Since the seminars are hosted by companies or groups of companies, there are usually hiring managers present with job opportunities in hand that they want to fill with the veterans who participate in the seminar.

One example is the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program (MVP), which conducts recareering seminars for veterans and transitioning military that are sponsored and supported by companies within the life sciences industry.  These events are held at sponsoring company headquarters or training centers, and offer an inside view of the hosting business and the larger industry, along with skills building training and mentorship.  MVP will be conducting two such events in New Jersey during the next two months, the first of which will be held at Ethicon, a Johnson and Johnson company on April 29th, 2014.  For more information, follow this link to the press release for the event, and it is republished below as well:

MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program Announces New Jersey’s First Veteran and Transitioning Military Re-careering Seminar

SOMERVILLE, N.J.April 2, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On April 29th, the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program(www.mvpvets.org) will host its inaugural re-careering event for transitioning military and veterans in New Jersey.  Military personnel in transition from service and honorably discharged veterans are invited to apply for the opportunity to participate in this free one day seminar that will include active one-on-one mentoring, industry specific training, eLearning enrollment, and personal engagement with hiring managers seeking to employ program participants.

The event brings veterans and transitioning military together with mentors from the medical technology industry while they participate in active sessions that include resume review and refinement, job interview training and rehearsals, creating a professional online presence in social media, and networking. Hiring managers from companies strongly desiring to hire transitioning military and veterans participate in the program as mentors, trainers, and interviewers.

The event on April 29 will be hosted by Ethicon, Inc., a global leader in the medical device industry, at their Somerville facility.

Participants will be able to submit their resumes for review and editing the week prior to the event so that they can be thoroughly prepared for submission to hiring managers. Additionally, each participant will be provided with personal business cards for use in networking and job-seeking.  Capacity for this event is 30 people maximum.

There is no cost for participating veterans and transitioning military.  All materials, breakfast, lunch, and parking are provided free of charge.  Transitioning military and veterans interested in participating in the program can apply at the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program website (http://www.mvpvets.org/public-events/mentor-and-veteran-workshop-new-jersey/registration.html)

About the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program (MVP):
The MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program is a nonprofit organization with the mission to bring 5,000 veterans and transitioning military into the Life Sciences by 2018.  Co-founded by  Abiomed (www.abiomed.com) and Zero Boundaries Global (www.zbglobal.com), MVP brings active mentorship together with an integrated collaborative online portal and eLearning from the Life Collaborative in a concerted effort to help those who have served the country in uniform re-career into meaningful and impactful careers in the MedTech, MedDevice, BioTech, Pharmaceutical, BioFuels, and Wireless Medical Technology sectors across a variety of corporate functional areas such as project management, supply chain, quality, and many others. http://www.mvpvets.org

 SOURCE MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program

(In the interest of full disclosure, I serve as the Chief Operating Officer for the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program, which is a 501(c)3 fiscally sponsored nonprofit organization that aims to recareer 5,000 veterans and transitioning military into the life sciences by 2018)