Troops leaving the military without a clear idea of what to do next will get extra one-on-one help from career counselors through a pilot program launched this month at 13 military installations worldwide.

The new Employment Navigator and Partnership Pilot, set to run for the next year, is expected to aid about 6,700 service members as they shift from their military careers to the civilian workforce.

Department of Labor officials, who are running the program in partnership with Defense Department leaders, said the program will also be open to military spouses who are transitioning alongside their troops.

The move comes amid efforts in recent years to improve the military’s Transition Assistance Program and provide more targeted assistance for soon-to-be veterans. About 200,000 service members separate or retire each year, many without clear employment plans for the future.

Past employment studies have found that roughly two-thirds of veterans are likely to leave their first post-military job within two years, either because of unhappiness with the work or because of better opportunities elsewhere.

The pilot program is designed to help cut down on that turnover by helping troops and spouses find a better fit from the start. Officials said the program will “identify high-demand occupations and necessary credentials” for the work, with a specific eye towards employment opportunities in areas where the separating service members will be living.

Staff will also be focused on “connecting them to partners and resources based on their interest, aptitudes and values for better employment-related outcomes.”

To be eligible for the program, troops must be participating in TAP classes at one of the 13 selected sites:

♦ AIR FORCE: Travis Air Force Base in California and Kadena Air Base in Japan;

♦ ARMY: Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Army Garrison Bavaria in Germany;

♦ MARINE CORPS: Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina and Marine Corps Base Okinawa in Japan;

♦ NAVY: Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia and Command Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Japan;

♦ JOINT INSTALLATIONS: Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina.

More than 41,000 service members are expected to transition through those sites in the next 12 months. The new program will focus on just part of that group, offering additional help to individuals with the most uncertain path ahead.

Labor officials will hire four or five new staff per site to administer the program. The department did not provide any cost estimate for the pilot, but noted that the Department of Labor is expected to spend about $32 million on TAP programming in the next year.

The pilot could expand to other bases in the future, depending on results from the first year of work.

Participation in the program is voluntary, although troops who fail to meet career readiness standards for the transition program may be required to take part.

For more information on the new pilot, visit the Department of Labor’s web site.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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