Statement of Dr. Vincent Patton
Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Coast Guard (Ret.)
Director, Community Outreach Military.com/Monster Worldwide
House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity
July 29, 2010
Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Boozman, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss issues associated with veterans employment. Today I will discuss what Military.com is doing to assist servicemembers in transferring their military training and experience to the civilian sector as they seek employment opportunities.
Over the course of my 30 year career in the U.S. Coast Guard, I regularly assisted members with their transition to civilian life. This experience combined with my current position as Military.com's director of community outreach has given me insights into the unique challenges our veterans face during the transition to civilian status, particularly when it comes to explaining their knowledge, skills and abilities for civilian employment opportunities.
In your invitation, you noted that there is a strong consensus in the veteran community that more needs to be done to help servicemembers transition their Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) to the civilian sector.
Military.com was founded in 1999 by a young Navy reservist to revolutionize the way our 30 million Americans with military affinity stay connected and informed. Today, Military.com is the largest military and veteran membership organization with more than 10 million members and we're the ninth largest news destination site on the Internet. Our free membership connects servicemembers, military families and veterans to each other and to all the benefits of service at all stages in their lives — government benefits, resources and career services, education information and scholarships, discounts, news and discussion forums to share the great stories and challenges inherent in military life, and more.
In 2004, Military.com joined forces with Monster Worldwide to accelerate our growth and change the playing field for career and educational opportunities for active duty personnel, as well as Guard and reservists, veterans and military spouses. Monster's vision is bringing people together to advance their lives. This partnership reinforces Military.com's "members first" ethos and mission.
I can say from personal experience that one of the most important stages in the life of a servicemember is their transition out of uniform and into the civilian sector. Throughout my career, from boot camp until retirement, I was reminded of the high value of the skills, knowledge and abilities I was accumulating while in uniform. I, like many of my fellow servicemembers, took advantage of continuing education opportunities, as well as additional responsibilities that required extensive training. We were motivated to do this in large part because we understood that our military skills and experiences were highly valued and transferrable to private sector jobs.
Before an active duty members transitions to civilian status, they are required to participate in the government's Transition Assistance Program (TAP) which, among many other subjects, addresses career transition. Before leaving the service I experienced firsthand its strengths and weaknesses. I believe many veterans who participated in TAP would agree that its format simply didn't deliver what we needed. The large amount of information presented over such a short period of time was overwhelming and to a large extent, incomprehensible. This continues to be true today for this generation of veterans, particularly when it comes to careers and employment.
With over 250,000 servicemembers transitioning annually, many after multiple operational deployments, it is next to impossible to deliver an effective 'one size fits all' transition program. There are so many end-of-service processing activities that occur in the course of the final three to six months prior to separation which require a servicemember's immediate attention, not the least of which is finding a job. While it may have been an effective approach years ago, the current program is simply not serving our men and women in uniform as it suggests that there is a simple, single event to address such a complex and challenging stage in our lives.
This leads to the question of what should the government do to ensure that military members are adequately prepared for civilian life, particularly employment in the private sector? Military.com believes it has to be a high tech and high touch approach, one which leverages technology and relationships. In this day and age of instant communication, the Internet is a daily resource for information gathering and communication. Veterans today, especially those who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, are technologically savvy and gravitate to using online resources. Clearly technology, particularly personalized, comprehensive online access, is part of the solution in supporting and assisting an effective transition process.
Recognizing this, Military.com's Veteran Career Center uses technology to successfully deliver a personalized experience with a variety of interactive tools and resources. We offer the largest veteran job board in the world featuring military-friendly employers as well as hundreds of thousands of job postings available through our Monster.com database. We also offer personalized email alerts for new postings that match a veteran's resume and job interests, as well as resume writing tools, education and training information, mentoring through our Veteran Career Network and electronic newsletters with news and employer information.
To help veterans begin their new career search, we developed our Military Skills Translator. We use Department of Labor's online resource known as 'O*Net Occupational Data' as a baseline to translate current and older MOS codes into civilian occupations. Then Military.com takes it one step further: we present the veteran with equivalent jobs currently posted on the Monster job board, including those posted by thousands of military employers specifically looking for veterans. The veteran can immediately apply to one of these jobs from our site, or review the job postings and learn what specific experiences, skills, education and training employers are seeking for this type of position. This information can help the job seeker better 'civilianize' their military experience on their resume and best communicate the skills, knowledge and abilities they acquired while in service.
Through the Military Skills Translator, not only are veterans empowered to apply to currently available jobs, they can also see members of Military.com's Veteran Career Network who have indicated they held that same MOS. One of our fastest growing services, still in “Beta” form, is the Veteran Career Network, a mentor network that connects veterans seeking new careers with employed veterans as well as military supporters. Military.com members who volunteer for this feature create a profile containing details about their military service, professional interests, and their current job position and employer. Veterans using this feature can find a career network mentor by company, government agency, career field, industry or geographic location. Once the veteran job seeker has identified someone with whom they would like to network, he or she can contact a mentor directly and securely using our Military.com email tool.
Since the implementation of our Veteran Career Network in 2007, over one million Military.com members have signed up to network with other veterans and help transitioning servicemembers jump start their civilian careers. We find that veterans across generations are willing to connect with each other out of a basic affinity for their shared military experience, whether the same service, unit or command assignment, rank or MOS, for example. Our Veteran Career Network is another example of how Military.com leverages veterans' needs and community affinity with technology to deliver a powerful, meaningful online experience to accelerate employment opportunities.
Military.com's success over the past 10 years is also attributable to the strength of our partnerships with the private and public sectors, both “online” and “offline.” For example, we partner with the Noncommissioned Officers Association to host more than 30 veteran career fairs annually on or near military installations around the country. We have tremendous participation from military-friendly employers who come ready to hire as well as organizations like 'Helmets to Hardhats,' which focuses on hiring veterans for the building and construction trade occupations, and 'Troops to Teachers,' which advocates the teaching profession as a second career for veterans. The American Legion also attends our career fairs to assist veteran job seekers with important details about their benefits and state veteran service offices frequently attend our events to ensure job seeking veterans are aware of all of the Veterans Administration resources available to them locally.
Again, I would like to thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to present this testimony and share what Military.com is doing to make a positive impact on veteran employment. I'm pleased that Congress is placing such a high priority on reforming TAP and that leadership in the Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs and Defense are equally committed to delivering a responsive, innovative 21st Century solution to our transitioning servicemembers. We appreciate the efforts of this Subcommittee to address the critical employment issues that veterans face and look forward to working with you, our Federal agencies, employers and other stakeholders to make meaningful changes.
Madam Chairwoman and members of the Subcommittee, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.