A revamping of the transition assistance services available to the nation’s military personnel includes additional career planning and college counseling.
Under the new program, servicemembers will attend a mandatory five-day workshop that will include three days of employment counseling and training. Meanwhile, those who plan to go to college after leaving the military will be required to have an acceptance letter or completed application from their chosen school.
In announcing the new Transition Goals Planning Success (GPS) program, federal officials said the upgrades should help lower the unemployment rate among veterans by better preparing them for civilian life.
In 2011, the overall jobless rate for veterans was 8.3%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. However, the rate rose to 12.1% among veterans who had served on active duty after September 2001.
At a December 2012 press conference, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described transition assistance as a matter of national security.
“It goes to the heart of taking care of the people that fight for us and ensuring that we can then recruit the very best force that’s possible,” Panetta said.
Transition GPS, which is part of the federal VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, will be introduced in phases through 2014. Other agencies participating in Transition GPS include the federal departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, Education and Homeland Security.
The program will require servicemembers to review how their military-related training, education and experience can be applied to a civilian career. Participants will receive advice on searching for jobs, writing resumes and interviewing, as well as counseling about veterans’ benefits and financial planning.
Servicemembers who hope to open a business will craft a startup plan with help from the Small Business Administration.
Prior to the introduction of Transition GPS, servicemembers could opt out of transition assistance services, which were provided in a fragmented manner. Officials say the overhauled program will standardize those services and help military personnel become “career-ready” civilians.
“We owe it to them to give them the tools they need to put their lives back together, and pursue their goals, whether it’s getting a good education, whether it’s getting the best healthcare, whether it’s excelling in a new career, whether it’s serving in government, whether it’s starting a business,” Panetta said.