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New transition courses get high marks, but will they lead to jobs?

Apr. 24, 2013 - 04:54PM   |  
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New transition workshops for separating service members are getting high marks from participants, but results of the real test — finding jobs — remain unclear.

Testifying Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel, Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs department officials said participants in the transition assistance workshops, run jointly by those agencies, have garnered positive comments in post-class workshops.

In terms of content, clarity and helping people set post-service goals, the revisions made last year in the Transition Assistance Program appear successful, said Susan Kelly, deputy director of the Defense Department’s Transition to Veterans Program

“We have very, very high marks,” Kelly said, in post-workshop surveys, reports from subject-expert observers, and detailed interviews with people who have attended recent workshops and had also attended transition classes offered before last year’s changes.

John Moran, who heads the Labor Department’s Veterans Employment Training Service, said people attending new TAP classes in January and February gave the workshops a 4.4 score on a scale where 5 is the top grade.

Lawmakers have heard this kind of report before, and remain skeptical until they see evidence that people who retire or separate from the military are able to find work.

Kelly said the Defense Department wants to collect this information, but so far can judge only what happens while members are still in the service, such as how many people are able to get civilian credentials or professional licenses from expanded programs that help them achieve this during their military career.

DoD plans to conduct surveys of what happens in post-service life, she said, including how many people who go on to college or vocational training are able to complete a course or degree. DoD also will look at employment results.

Kelly said she expects 250,000 to 300,000 people to leave the military in the next four years, and 17 percent of enlisted members do not have a military skill that transfers easily to a civilian job. In the Army and Marine Corps, 27 percent of enlisted members have a military-learned skill without a direct civilian equivalent, she said.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., the military personnel panel chairman, said he generally supports the new transition classes, made mostly mandatory by Congress. “It is critical that transitioning service members are provided with the right information they need to make important decisions to support their future endeavors,” Wilson said.

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