If you could start over again, would you make the same decision? According to a recent survey, 78 percent of active duty military personnel say a resounding “yes.”
When you think of the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made, especially in recent years, this overwhelming positive response may seem odd. But when you consider the dedication to duty and our nation that they exhibit, it’s not all that surprising. Yet, as war efforts draw down and the military reduces the size of its forces, thousands of active duty personnel will be discharged and returning to civilian life.
The poll conducted by Excelsior College in November 2012 also indicated that a large majority (88 percent) of active duty personnel expected to pursue a postsecondary educational credential after being discharged. What may be surprising to many in the civilian world, however, is that much of the training received while serving in the military is college-level and has tremendous application in a variety of civilian occupations.
As an education example, an aviation electronics technician in the Navy, depending upon the sailor’s rating, will have had to complete numerous training programs that are equivalent to college courses. This equivalency evaluation of military training is conducted by the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) and is accepted by most colleges and universities toward their degree requirements. In this Navy example, an E-3 might have as many as 35 credits to put toward an associate degree in applied science at a college like Excelsior. That’s more than half way toward the entire 60 credit-hour degree.
On the employment side, take someone whose “career field” in the Army was as multi-systems transmission operator, a 25Q in Army lingo, for example. Using the O*NET OnLine website, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, employers would find that someone with this military occupation has the skills and experience needed in a handful of civilian jobs, especially in the cellular telephone and two-way radio communications fields where the growth in job openings is expected to be much faster than average through 2020.
Alarmingly, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the current veteran participation rate in the workforce is less than 52 percent. It’s not just returning active duty personnel who are affected, however. Members of the National Guard and Reserve forces face similar employment issues and employers can become actively involved in a program called ESGR, Employer Support for the Guard and Reserves.
Those who have served in our armed forces say they would do it all over again. To them, the nation owes both a debt of thanks and the chance at an education and a job when they return home. As employers and higher education become more informed about the skills, education and strong work ethic our military personnel bring to the civilian world, the more we can do to support them by making the transition easier. The rewards for doing so are high for everyone.