Joining Forces Blog

  • This Memorial Day: A Simple Act of Kindness

    Ed. note: The full text of the op-ed by Dr. Jill Biden is printed below. The piece is published today on The Huffington Post, and can be found here.

    The year my son Beau was deployed to Iraq with the Delaware Army National Guard, my family learned how much simple acts of kindness could lift our spirits.  From the notice in the church bulletin to the neighbor who shoveled my daughter-in-law’s driveway during a snow storm, these gestures meant the world to us. 

    This Memorial Day, I hope you will take a moment to offer your own gesture of thanks to our men and women serving abroad and at home, as well as their families, and reflect on the service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

    Over the past four years, First Lady Michelle Obama and I have had the privilege of meeting with military service members and their families all around the world. We’ve heard their concerns about school and career issues; we’ve shared their joy when service members returned from deployment, and we’ve tried to offer solace when they face difficult times.  These stories and experiences – and our desire to say ‘thank you’ - inspired us to start the Joining Forces initiative, a nationwide effort to rally all Americans to support our veterans and military families.

    Joining Forces brings together public and private resources to help with the employment, education and wellness of our returning servicemen and women and their families. Through the Veterans Job Bank and Veterans Recruiting Services, we’re connecting unemployed veterans with job openings.  We’re working hard to encourage states to make it easier for military spouses – often teachers and nurses - to transfer their certifications across state lines.  And we’re proud to have so many private sector partners committed to increasing the number of veterans they hire.

    From a big initiative to a small gesture, Memorial Day is the perfect time to offer a simple act of kindness to our veterans and military families.  You can send a message of thanks to our troops or a military family. Or pledge hours of service. Or even start your own volunteer project.  And afterwards, please share your story - we want to hear about it!

  • Blue Star Families: Providing a Shining Example of Support for Military Families

    Our nation has the best military force in the world due to the unwavering commitment and dedication of our service men and women. But standing right behind these selfless men and women is a strong support system made up of spouses, children, parents, and family members who also willingly sacrifice. Blue Star Families, founded in 2009 by a group of military spouses, is an established, chapter-based organization. To date, there are over 70 chapters on military bases and National Guard sites across the country, offering valuable wellness, morale, education, and employment programming for military families.

    Blue Star Families has been successful in creating valuable programs for military families because they maintain awareness on the challenges families face. Each year, Blue Star Families conducts a Military Family Lifestyle Survey to take a proactive look at the current needs and priorities of military families and service members. This survey is a unique tool that not only assists their organization but also provides key decision makers with concrete data on the challenges military families face.

    For example, Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Surveys have consistently revealed that military spouse employment is a key component of military family stability. In this year’s survey, of the 61% of military spouses that are unemployed, 52% want to be employed. So Blue Star Families seeks to empower military spouses in the difficult task of finding employment by providing a broad range of initiatives designed to support military families throughout various points on their career paths. This could be anything from building a resume to finding a job, and keeping that job despite unique challenges. To assist in military spouses navigate the job market, Blue Star Families launched three ground-breaking peer-to-peer networks: Blue Star Entrepreneurs, Blue Star Health Care Professionals, and Blue Star Educators. These groups encourage military family members to work together and share their experiences to help each overcome many of the challenges often faced.

  • 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.