For some soldiers, leaving active duty service and entering the workforce is a frightening prospect. Many of these individuals might worry that they will have trouble finding a job during the difficult economy or that their military skill set will not be enough to help them compete with college degree holders. However, many federal and private organizations have launched programs to help veterans ease this transition.
Returning soldiers might consider taking college courses or enrolling in degree programs online or on campus as part of Montgomery GI Bill benefits. Individuals who served in any branch of the US Armed Forces for more than 90 days after the date of September 10, 2001, are also eligible to take advantage of a Post-9/11 GI Bill that could help them complete campus-based or online degree programs by paying up to the highest in-state tuition and fees. In addition, for some, there are allowances for housing and books. A US Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs in August approved an expansion of the Post-9/11 GI Bill as well.
The expansion is known as the Veterans Employment Act of 2010. With it, veterans would receive Post-9/11 educational assistance also for apprenticeships and job training, and the Labor Secretary would provide monthly allowances to unemployed veterans enrolled in eligible full-time employment training programs where they learn skills related to in-demand careers. The Veterans Employment Act also calls for ways that colleges, universities and technical schools could provide veterans with academic credit for military experience and training.
The unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for July 2010 was 11.8 percent, about 4 percent higher than the rate for the same month last year, as well as the July 2010 rate for veterans overall, according to the Marine Corps Times. The Veterans Employment Act calls for the Small Business Administration to help veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in some areas to receive entrepreneurial training and counseling and to assist veterans who own and control businesses. States, on the other hand, through grants would be able to establish volunteer and employment opportunities for veterans in state conservation projects, while the Secretary of Defense provides veterans with employment in military construction projects. In addition to programs that would help veterans build upon existing information technology and healthcare skills when entering careers in these fields, the Veterans Employment Act directs the Labor Secretary to encourage the employment of veterans in the energy industry.
Some veterans interested in filling state jobs related to the environment and increasingly “green” jobs within the energy industry and elsewhere might consider online degree and certificate programs that could help them update existing skills. A 2009 White House study estimates that by 2016 green jobs will have grown by 52 percent from 2000 levels. To create what some refer to as “green collar” jobs, President Barack Obama in 2008 said he would spend $150 billion over the course of a decade, a Time magazine article reported.
Veterans have an array of college, university and technical school programs related to the environment from which to choose. Institutions throughout the country last year established or announced more than 113 academic programs with sustainability focuses, the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Education reports. As Illinois colleges and universities add new green classes, they’re filling up quickly, a summer 2010 report in suburban Chicago’s Daily Herald noted. In California, where the state intends to slash carbon emissions by 25 percent into 2020, gas and electric companies have suggested that mechanics be trained in natural gas technology, an article in the community college magazine Affinityonline reported.
The focus at community colleges particularly is on training for “green collar” jobs that Affinityonline reports often require manual labor. These types of jobs might be found in sectors such as energy, agriculture, construction, transportation and alternative fuels – and they don’t necessarily require a bachelor’s degree, the online publication noted. Veterans particularly are a focus of natural gas programs scheduled to start in 2011 at a community college and a technical school in Pennsylvania, where they might receive instruction in welding and brazing, rotary drilling and more.