US

US soldiers getting credentials for their specialties to help with civilian job hunt

U.S. Army soldiers use computers at Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar April 14, 2011. (Reuters)

U.S. Army soldiers use computers at Combat Outpost Nolen in the Arghandab Valley north of Kandahar April 14, 2011. (Reuters)

The U.S. Army is boosting efforts to help soldiers succeed in civilian life by giving them more tools and qualifications to find work after military service.

Acting Army Secretary Robert Speer plans to give a directive in the near future that will broaden a transition program to include credentialing soldiers in areas ranging from truck driving and mechanics to information technology, according to Military.com.

In some cases the Army gives soldiers the skills they need, such as how to drive a truck, but then does not give them the formal credentials, such as a commercial driver's license, that allow them to apply successfully for similar work in the civilian world.

Maj. Gen. Hugh Van Roosen said Thursday the Army could do more to help soldiers be employable, reported Military.com.

We're always struggling with hours in the training day. However, we have to balance that against whatever we can do to ensure a soldier who's leaving has as soft a landing as possible.

- Maj. Gen. Hugh Van Roosen


"Is there any reason why we couldn't -- without a whole lot of effort -- include a commercial driver's license in the program?" asked Van Roosen, the service's deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel plans, programs and policies.


"We're always struggling with hours in the training day. However, we have to balance that against whatever we can do to ensure a soldier who's leaving has as soft a landing as possible."


The Army is already doing exactly that in some vocations, he said.


"We're already doing credentialing in our medical fields ... [but] there's a lot of areas, particularly in our IT fields, that we don't do anything like that, and there's not any particularly good reason for it," he said.


Military.com reported that Speer is expected to issue the directive within a month.


At the same time, Army Sgt. Major Daniel Dailey has spoken about promoting the benefits of college credits and credentialing to recruit.


A report titled "The State of Credentialing of Service Members and Veterans: Challenges, Successes and Opportunities,” which was funded by Military.com, was released at the American Legion event.


The report noted that U.S. lawmakers are acknowledging the need to give troops certifications and civilian licenses that will help them transition in civil life.


Military.com quoted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., noting at a recent hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Personnel Subcommittee: "America spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to train service members to do highly skilled jobs ... they should be ready to move into civilian life with [the help of] certifications.”


She said that the Senate "wants to work on making it easier for our service members when they leave the service to have that credential in hand and recognized in all 54 jurisdictions of the United States.”


The report released at the event said that among steps that can help soldiers succeed in civilian life are identifying credentials that most closely meet labor market demand, analyzing attainment of credentials and incorporating military and veteran interests in credentialing programs.


Van Roosen said that about 15 percent of troops retire from the military after they have served 20 years.


Most leave after five years, Military.com said, meaning that about 135,000 soldiers transition out each year.