Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Austin Area Businesses Join with Fort Hood to Help Soldiers Transition

According to a recent News OK article, about 11,000 soldiers transition into civilian life out of Fort Hood every year. And many may not be prepared to find a civilian career. That is until now thanks to Col. Matt Elledge’s meeting with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce in which he pitched the creation of a program that will place soldiers into intensive, 13-week fellowship programs with local companies. Called the Heroes Corporate Fellowship Academy, Elledge explains "If we can get the transitioning soldier into a company … they'll like what that soldier brings to the table."

Austin-based Mike Starich, CEO of Orion International, weighed in on the issue and explained that soldiers with technical and management skills often fare better as they transition. According to Starich, Oftentimes, those without directly translatable skills may “see these jobs at the Wal-Marts of the world or retail jobs as lower paying and they say, 'I'm better off taking the GI Bill and going to school or taking unemployment.'"

To overcome this gap, Elledge is calling for the military to get better at helping corporate America understand what soldiers bring to the table. And, according to News OK article, companies in Central Texas are listening. He has helped establish joint programs with the Austin chamber, work with several job-training organizations and bring local business leaders on post for job fairs and "a day in the life of a soldier" events.

Soldiers with fewer key skills might attend multiple job fairs on base and find few, good-paying options available to them. For these soldiers, without hard technical skills, there are an increasing number of options ranging from Austin Community College and Skillpoint Alliance. "There's a broad spectrum of support out there," concludes Starich. "But it all boils down to giving the person the skill sets to get a decent-paying job they'll be motivated to take instead of just accepting."

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