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Why Is Transition So Important to Our Servicemen and Women?

September 12, 2016 4 minute Read by Corporal Jeffrey J. Cleland, USMC, Ret., Ashley McConkey
There is still more progress to be made for the approximately 1 million service members who will transition out of the military over the next five years.

This week, the Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative and the United Service Organizations (USO) to host an event that highlights the resources and careers available to transitioning service members, veterans, and their spouses.  As we dive into this important issue, the Bush Institute is publishing a series examining the important role that employers and non-profits play in veteran transition and recommendations on how to leverage a veteran's leadership talent.  

Today, the Bush Institute's Jeff Cleland reviews the success of the private sector and non-profits, and outlines the progress still to be made.  

Too often in the veteran nonprofit world, we see organizations treating symptoms of a problem. In general, we know that people are happier, healthier, and more productive members of society when they are gainfully employed. Yet many organizations give brownies, blankets, and items with a shelf-life to vets when the vast majority of us are only looking for economic stability. Imagine the impact if we realigned these resources to aide those leaving the military as they transition back to civilian life and offered our vets better training and education. 

Veteran and military hiring initiatives like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes (HOH), JP Morgan Chase Veterans Jobs Mission, Hire Heroes USA, and others have done an incredible job of building private sector support for hiring veterans, and the number of hires has been impressive.  But, there is still more progress to be made for the approximately 1 million service members who will transition out of the military over the next five years. 

A recent study by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) shows that roughly two thirds of all veterans are leaving their first civilian jobs within two years. This report also indicated that the turnover is primarily due to underemployment, lack of purpose, no upward mobility, stagnant market, and/or a lack of training and education. For veteran employers and non-profit organizations, this is a troubling statistic because employee turnover is costly for all parties.

Since veterans possess invaluable leadership experiences, we should equip them with the skills they need to become leaders in our businesses and communities.  The Post-9/11 GI Bill, signed into law by President George W. Bush, is a tool designed to empower our Nation’s veterans. As written, the bill enables service members without a college education to obtain one, or for those who already have a degree, the bill provides an opportunity to pursue an advanced degree.  

Because not every veteran is cut out for college, the GI Bill can also be used for skilled workforce training programs. However, not all training programs are covered by the GI Bill. Amending the GI bill to extend its workforce training coverage could be one solution to address the issue of employee retention.  Another positive step could be informing our retiring service members about the significant number of jobs available in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and manufacturing fields.  

As we search for ways to aide veterans, we should continue to ask - are we providing veterans with the tools necessary to secure meaningful, long-term employment within our communities? 


Author

Corporal Jeffrey J. Cleland, USMC, Ret.
Corporal Jeffrey J. Cleland, USMC, Ret.

Cleland is the Manager of Research and Policy for the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute where he specializes in employment transition as well as collective impact in the military/veteran space.  Prior to joining the Military Service Initiative, Cleland was the Director of Innovation and Operations for the Community Engagement & Innovation team at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF).  He developed and managed initiatives in support of establishing, executing, and maintaining oversight of collective impact projects under the technical oversight of the Community Engagement team (AmericaServes). 

Cleland was an Infantry Machine Gunner (0331) assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, Fox Company, and was retired from the United States Marine Corps in July 2008 due to injuries sustained while fighting in the surrounding towns of Fallujah, Iraq.  Upon retirement, Cleland returned home to pursue his education at Syracuse University.  He currently resides in his hometown of Camillus, NY with his wife Kimberly, son Colton, daughter Charlotte, and dogs Benelli and Nova.  He holds a B.A. in Policy Studies (Public Affairs) with a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in Creative Collaboration and Conflict Resolution.

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Ashley McConkey
Ashley McConkey

Ashley McConkey manages communications for the George W. Bush Presidential Center and is responsible for message development on behalf of the Economic Growth, Human Freedom and Military Service initiatives.

Before joining the Bush Center, McConkey worked in the communications and public policy arena in Austin, Texas for both non-profit and corporate entities.  She also served as a Budget and Policy Adviser to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. 

McConkey grew up in Greenville, Texas and moved to Austin to study Political Science at St. Edward’s University.  She and her husband reside in Dallas.

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