Joining Forces Blog

  • Coming Home: Pathways to Success for Service Members and Veterans

    With more than a million veterans returning home to our nation’s shores over the next five years, we have an unprecedented opportunity – and a civic obligation – to strengthen their pathways to success. To prepare for their return home and their transition back to civilian life, the Obama Administration sought – early on– to bring diverse government partners to the table, calling for an interagency planning effort to support Service members’ career readiness. 

    In response to President Obama’s call to action for a career-ready military in August 2011, the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force was launched, under the leadership of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. This interagency effort has brought together a collaboration of federal agencies – including Education, the Small Business Administration, Labor, Homeland Security and the Office of Personnel Management, as well as our military services and National Guard and Reserves –  as partners, working together on the first major redesign of the military’s Transition Assistance Program in over twenty years to develop a comprehensive, outcome-based re-entry program now called Transition Goals, Plans, Success (Transition GPS).

    Each of the partner federal agencies is contributing leadership and resources to activate the implementation of Transition GPS, in accordance with the VOW to Hire Heroes Act signed into law November 21, 2011. Key to this work has been the development of a core 3-day curriculum, career readiness standards, three optional tracks for transition (Higher Education, Technical Training, and Entrepreneurship), as well as options for learning in brick-and-mortar classrooms and online. Throughout their participation, Service members will receive individualized counseling and support in the preparation of a transition plan. The program also provides Service members who are exiting active duty with an education transcript, resume, access to labor market information, employment and housing opportunities, benefits information, mentoring resources, and other support services.

  • Businesses Must Hire More Vets

    Ed note: This op-ed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden was first published on Fortune.com. You can see the original article here.

    Two years ago, we launched Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to rally all Americans to support our veterans and military families. We did this for two simple reasons: because we were both awed by the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day to protect our values and keep us safe. We were also awed by their families, the spouses and children who serve right along with them, enduring deployment after deployment with grace and resolve.

    As we traveled the country visiting bases and military communities, everywhere we went, we heard from veterans who had years of training and experience in the military -- leading dozens, even hundreds of their peers; operating some of the most advanced technology; and solving complex problems under the most extreme conditions imaginable. But when they returned home, they struggled to find decent jobs. We met military spouses who'd spent decades moving from base to base every couple of years and struggled to maintain their careers. As the months passed, we saw that the unemployment rate for our most recent veterans remained far too high above the national average.

    These men and women are some of the highest-skilled, best-trained, hardest-working people in this country. They are medics and engineers, drivers and welders, computer technicians and machinists. They are eager to work and determined to keep on serving this country. All they need is a chance.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama Announces a New Program to Help Transitioning Servicemembers Get IT Jobs

    First Lady Michelle Obama Announces the IT Training and Certification Partnership, April 29, 2013

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, April 29, 2013. The First Lady announces the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private partnership that will enable thousands of service members to earn industry-recognized information technology (IT) certifications before they transition from military service. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    In the ongoing effort to help our servicemembers and veterans transition from active duty service to the civilian job market, the White House today invited leaders from the private sector, the military services, industry trade associations, unions, educational institutions, state legislatures, veteran service organizations, and state licensing boards for a forum on military credentialing and licensing.

    At the event, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private program that addresses an issue that can prevent our troops from gaining employment in the private sector: Active military personnel typically do not have the industry-recognized certifications that reflect the IT skills and expertise they gained through their military service.

    Today’s announcement is the second major partnership developed through the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, which was established last June by the Department of Defense at President Obama’s direction. The new Partnership will provide opportunities for up to 161,000 service members to gain industry-recognized, nationally portable certifications necessary for 12 high-demand technology professions, including computer programmers, quality assurance engineers, and IT security analysts. The targeted professions are expected to generate more than 1.8 million job opportunities by 2020, and have an average annual salary of more than $81,000. Their high-quality military training assures that our veterans have the skill sets that employers demand to fill these positions

  • States Step Up to Help Veterans and Spouses Get Back to Work

    First Lady Michelle Obama watches Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley sign the Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013, April 17, 2013

    First Lady Michelle Obama watches Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley sign the Veterans Full Employment Act of 2013 during a ceremony at the State House in Annapolis, Md., April 17, 2013. Seated, from left are, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Gov. Martin O'Malley, and House Speaker Michael Busch. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    President Obama and the First Lady are committed to doing everything in their power to assist the brave men and women who have served our country in re-entering civilian life and finding employment. Over the last year and a half, the President has overseen the first re-design of the military’s transition assistance program in twenty years; created new tax credits to spur veteran hiring; expanded re-employment services, including the Veterans Job Bank and the Veterans Gold Card; and launched a series of initiatives to expand the number of veterans that get jobs in healthcare and first responder fields. Additionally, under the great leadership of the First Lady and Dr. Biden, Joining Forces has expanded hiring and training partnerships with the private sector in an effort to help our veterans and their spouses get back to work.

    Yet, our veterans still face major hurdles as they transition out of the military and into the civilian workforce. According to a 2012 survey by Prudential and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 60 percent of survey respondents said they had trouble translating their military skills into civilian job experience, creating a significant barrier to employment. Many high-demand, good-paying jobs like paramedics, truck drivers, nurses, and welders, require either a national certification or state occupational license to be hired, and currently our national and state systems make it very difficult for service members and veterans to obtain these civilian certifications and licenses that directly translate to their military training. Often times service members and veterans are required to repeat education or training in order to receive these occupational credentials, even though much, and in some cases, all, of their military training and experience overlaps with credential training requirements. And employers, many with significant needs for skilled workers, are left waiting for these military members to complete these, oftentimes lengthy, credentialing training programs – programs that many veterans could have taught themselves.

  • Supporting our Veterans and Military Families on Campuses

    Over the next few years, more than a million service men and women will end their military careers and transition back to civilian life. Many of these veterans will decide to go back to school to finish their degrees, enroll in a community college for the first time, or work to obtain a master’s degree.

    That’s why, on our campus communities, we need to make sure that our veterans have access to the programs that will help them succeed and obtain good jobs to support their families.

    This April, as we mark the second anniversary of Joining Forces, I am pleased to be visiting several higher education institutions to learn more about what they are doing to support student veterans.

    Dr. Biden participates on a panel with student, faculty and staff veterans at George Washington University

    Dr. Biden participates on a panel with student, faculty and staff veterans at George Washington University (by Jessica McConnell Burt / The George Washington University)

    On Wednesday, I visited George Washington University to meet with student veterans and hear about several of their initiatives. While I was there, I heard from members of GW Vets, their student group representing more than 1,500 student veterans, military dependent students and allies across campus. 

    One of those students was Nichole Krom, a freshman who became involved in GW Vets as soon as she heard about it and is now the organization’s secretary. Nichole is not a veteran herself, but her father recently retired from the New York Air National Guard. She is a wonderful example of an important truth about our service men and women who sacrifice so much for our country – their families serve right alongside them.

  • Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors

    As we mark the second anniversary of Joining Forces and celebrate the Month of the Military Child, April gives us the opportunity to celebrate our nation's youngest heroes—the children whose parents serve in our Armed Forces.

    Military children face many unique challenges – on average, they attend six to nine different school systems by the time they graduate from high school. Through each transition, they have to leave their friends, try out for new sports teams, and adjust to a new school. 

    As a teacher, I have been so pleased to see the progress we are making to raise awareness and understanding about how to help military children in the classroom. Through Joining Forces, more than 100 colleges of teacher education have signed on to Operation Educate the Educators, an effort to help better prepare future teachers to help military children in the classroom.

    But as a military mother and grandmother, it is important to me that we are supporting our military children outside the classroom as well.