Returning from a nine-month deployment in Kuwait, a U.S. Army Reservist at Fort Meade found himself unemployed.
But after accessing the Military Corps Career Connect (C3) program, he got a seat in a 16-week Amazon Cloud training program and rapidly secured a senior systems engineer position with a government contractor, earning $45.68 per hour.
From July to September 2017, another 17 transitioning service members joined the C3 program and were placed in the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program (CFP), a U.S. Chamber of Commerce initiative that places transitioning military and veterans in internships with private sector employers. Upon graduation, 82% had secured permanent employment with an average salary of $126,000.
During the same period, transitioning service members, active duty spouses and recently separated veterans who completed a training program offered through C3 posted a 92% success rate at landing employment.
Those results would be impressive among any population. Among a military population, however, they really stand out.
Consider, for instance, that 53% of veterans experience a period of unemployment during the first 15 months after leaving service. In addition, the challenge of translating military service into civilian job competitions leaves many veterans underemployed or dissatisfied with their jobs; in addition, military spouses experience unemployment rates at four the rate of the general population. On average, 35% to 40% of spouses are unemployed or underemployed.
The two-year statewide C3 program is administered by the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp. (AAWDC), which works with partners such as the Fort Meade Alliance (FMA) to carry out the objectives of a $4.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The FMA is working to improve employment rates among transitioning military, active-duty spouses and recent veterans throughout Maryland. C3 partners with military installations, regional workforce development agencies, education institutions, business groups and individuals to identify needs and opportunities in training and employment. C3’s veteran navigators work one-on-one with transitioning military, spouses and veterans to clarify employment goals; access training, internships and other services; and find jobs.
“This is only the second grant of its kind in the country, and the cool thing about this grant is that it tells us who we can serve, but not how we can serve them,” said Shauna Donahue, C3 director.
That flexibility has enabled C3, which has only been operational since June, to try a variety of initiatives, forge partnerships and seize opportunities. It has made it easier for Maryland companies to make meaningful contributions to efforts to help veterans and military spouses build successful civilian careers.
“This is the first time that I have seen all three pieces of the overall effort to hire veterans connected through one grant,” said Tim O’Ferrall, general manager of the FMA, which is working to fuel employer engagement in C3. “There is the education piece, there is the business connection piece and there is the veteran navigator piece, which pushes the veterans, the educators and the employers together to make sure all the right connections are made, the right services and training programs are offered and ultimately that job placements occur. I’m impressed by how easy it is for a company to have impact in that environment.”
Spurred by a request from some of his project managers, Leidos Vice President Jack Terry was searching for an opportunity for his staff to give back to the community when he met Donahue.
The C3 team wanted to organize a training cohort for individuals interested in earning their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. He enlisted the support of PMI Baltimore [a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating project managers and promoting professionalism in Project Management], and together they identified ways to support the C3 program. Leidos and PMI participated in an initial listening session for C3 clients who might be interested in pursuing a PMP certification.
Once the training cohort formed, Leidos and PMI held a half-day session to walk participants through the details of PMP requirements and how they related to military experience and training.
“We had members of the whole community, not just the government contracting community, participate,” Terry said. “We had [project managers] from across Baltimore who descended on Leidos in support of the 22 people in that cohort.”
C3 Gives Back
After the cohort completed the five-week training program, Leidos and PMI held a second session to prep the participants for certification. And the aid didn’t stop there.
“There were PMs from Leidos and PMI Baltimore who gave out their business cards and said, ‘If you want one-on-one instruction, call me,’ ” he said. “One lieutenant colonel gave his package to a Leidos PM, and that PM sat on the phone and helped him write his application.”
Many companies want to help veterans gain employment, but often struggle to find a way to provide that help, Terry said.
The C3 program “makes it easy to give back,” he said. “If there are 20 steps involved in providing a service to veterans, C3 is doing 17 of them. If you can identify how you can contribute your expertise, then it’s easy to plug in and deliver a meaningful service. Your effort isn’t diluted with administrative work or worrying if lunch got ordered.
“You can hit the ground running,” Terry said, “and deliver an incredibly important benefit to veterans and military families.”