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Aiding the transition from military to civilian

OLYMPIA — Military members looking to make the transition to the civilian workforce can now look to the state for help. Earlier this month, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges approved Worker Retraining funds to help those making the move from military to the civilian world. The program makes veterans eligible for career counseling, job search support and assistance with educational and study skills.

Worker Retraining funds are available through the Washington Employment Securities Department.

“If you’re a person leaving the military, your first priority is presumably to find work,” said David Wallace, a labor market economist with the Washington Employment Securities Department. In Washington’s job market, which as of Monday had a 4.7 seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, that’s not always easy to do.

Education, he said, is becoming the most critical factor in finding living-wage jobs in today’s economy. Those coming out of the military carry a special set of circumstances into the labor market — some lack basic skills that transfer to the civilian job market.

The Worker Retraining program can teach those leaving the military those vital skills, like interviewing techniques, how to put together a resume, “or all those things we take for granted that we shouldn’t,” Wallace said.

Another interesting obstacle those making the transition have to face is that sometimes the job they performed in the military has no civilian equivalent, like working in artillery, he said.

“There are a few that do transition well, like (military police),” Wallace said. Also, those members of the armed forces who receive technical training in electronics seem to make the transition well.

The skills taught in the Worker Retraining program help both the Employment Securities department and the person transitioning make their common goal: get that person back into the workforce.

“From our perspective, the real benefit (of the program) is getting people back to work. That’s what we’re tasked to do,” Wallace said.

To be eligible for financial help through Worker Retraining, service members must meet college residency requirements and have received an honorable discharge within the last 24 months, according to a press release from state WorkSource office.

Worker Retraining is intended to help people who aren’t able to find work in their current field. The funds can be used to cover educational expenses, the release states. Almost 100,000 Washington residents have taken advantage of the program since 1993.

Participating colleges can be found at www.sbctc.edu. Additional information about the Worker Retraining program can be found at www.Go2WorkSource.com.

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