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Creating a Path to Employment for Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities

Veterans can face many challenges when returning to the workforce. Service-related disabilities, lack of experience in the civilian world, limited community connections due to multiple deployments, and other unique barriers contribute to these challenges. According to a March 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 4.7 million Veterans—26 percent of all Veterans—have a service-connected disability.

Increasingly, employers are recognizing the transferrable skills and qualities that Veterans bring to the civilian workforce. Veterans are goal oriented, make excellent leaders, and possess experience and knowledge that make them a good fit for a variety of civilian jobs. In fact, many companies have programs that specifically recruit former members of the military.

With a nod to Military Appreciation Month this year, and in acknowledgment of the commitment made by military personnel past and present, the LEAD Center is undertaking several initiatives focused on Veterans’ employment.

Guided Group Discovery, Veterans Edition—Facilitator Guide

Guided Group Discovery (GGD) is a strategy that assembles small groups of up to 10 job seekers committed to an employment search. One or more trained facilitators guide these job seekers through a process of self-exploration. This experience provides an opportunity for peer support that can help the job seekers, especially those who may be struggling to find employment or may otherwise lose motivation to stick with a job search over time. The process matches the strengths and skills of the job seekers with the unmet needs of employers. This avoids the competitive nature of more traditional employment strategies by proactively proposing employment to employers, using participants’ social networks to help identify job leads.

The LEAD Center designed its Guided Group Discovery, Veterans Edition—Facilitator Guide to train people to facilitate GGD sessions with Veterans, people with disabilities, and/or others who are experiencing challenges to employment. The LEAD Center has supported pilot projects implementing GGD in American Job Centers (also known as One-Stop Centers) in collaboration with a variety of partners, including Veterans’ service providers, vocational rehabilitation, programs for individuals with developmental disabilities, behavioral health providers, Centers for Independent Living, homeless services providers, and others. Because partners facilitate the groups collaboratively, Veterans and others with challenges to employment receive support from multiple systems and agencies that can leverage each other’s resources.

Guided Group Discovery: Paving a Road to Employment

The LEAD Center presented the webinar, “Guided Group Discovery: Paving a Road to Employment,” to grantees of the National Veterans Technical Assistance Center Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program. The webinar introduced the rationale for using GGD; explored GGD strategies that can benefit Veterans during their job searches; identified ways to guide Veterans in determining how their military training, discipline, and mission focus can benefit employers; and provided resources to support Veterans transitioning into civilian employment.

Veteran Readiness and Employment Apprenticeship Trainings

LEAD Center staff provided a three-part training for vocational rehabilitation counselors and employment coordinators who work with Veterans who have service-connected disabilities and who are enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program. The training covered: (1) an overview of Registered Apprenticeship; (2) how to connect partners to regional apprenticeship ecosystems; and (3) how to integrate apprenticeship into pre-existing VR&E training and counseling services. Five VR&E offices piloted the training. The ultimate goal is to increase the number of Veterans with disabilities in registered apprenticeship programs. Training recordings and videos will be available soon!

This initiative is a collaborative effort of the LEAD Center; VR&E; and DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship, and Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

For more information about Registered Apprenticeship, visit the Office of Apprenticeship’s portal at apprenticeship.gov and the new Veteran-specific webpages at apprenticeship.gov/service-members-and-veterans.

NASWA Veterans Conference—Discovering Your Purpose After Transitioning: Tools for Finding the Right Career Match Post-Discharge

Veterans want to ensure that any career after military life is a good fit that provides them with a sense of purpose. LEAD Center staff led the interactive session, “Discovering Your Purpose After Transitioning: Tools for Finding the Right Career Match Post-Discharge,” at the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) Veterans Conference. The session provided participants with: (1) tools specifically developed to assist in the “discovery” process, which is especially useful for war-wounded Veterans seeking employment or apprenticeships; and (2) tools to help Veterans envision not only how their military training, discipline, and mission focus can benefit employers, but also how to make that connection.

LEAD Center staff will return to the NASWA Veterans Conference in summer 2021 with a panel discussion on how ODEP and VETS are working to increase the number of Veterans with service-connected disabilities who enter registered apprenticeship.

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