How Veterans Can Start Their Civilian Careers in America’s Energy Industry

(U.S. Navy/Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Wenhan Fan)

No matter how things are going for the greater U.S. economy, there’s one sector that always is looking for good people: energy. Even during the global COVID-19 pandemic, as more than a million veterans filed for unemployment benefits, the energy industry was not only hiring. It was recruiting -- and it wanted more veterans.

Jeremy Foshee is one of those recruiters. He leads military recruiting for Southern Company, an Atlanta-based electric and natural gas company. Foshee was an Army chaplain’s assistant for his six-year enlistment. After getting a degree from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, he went to work for Southern Company, where he has been since 2006.

As long as he has been in the energy industry, workforce development has been a critical part of the industry’s growth. In 2012, the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) looked to build a national strategy around career-ready veterans, Troops to Energy Jobs.

“We noticed that there was a career awareness gap,” Foshee tells “Unless you're a Navy nuke transitioning into commercial nuclear, you may not connect the dots to the energy industry. How do we help you understand the opportunities in the energy industry? We want that talent.”

Troops to Energy Jobs is not only a training program for future careers in energy -- no matter what your military specialty was -- but is also a jobs board for those already qualified to work in these careers, a list of energy companies and openings and a place to register your availability to energy companies. It’s the first step to a new career.

Troops to Energy Jobs is a program centered around the “Roadmap to a Career in Energy.” No matter what education and training you come into the program already knowing, this roadmap will help you get into the energy sector. Foshee says 14% of the energy industry’s total hires come from transitioning service members.

Interested veterans can start by looking at the careers available and open to them, depending on availability in which state they want to work. They then apply and get to work through training apprenticeship programs in that field. For more advanced roles, the roadmap also offers formal education possibilities.

The end of the road is not a job placement program, but Troops to Energy Jobs offers something almost as good as a guaranteed job. One of the major issues facing newly separated military members is that they receive a lot of formal and informal job skills training, but usually lack the networking common among civilian workers.

In an apprenticeship environment, the veteran will get to work with people in their industry, replacing that networking component that is often critical to finding long-term, stable and fulfilling employment.

“The tools provided by the roadmap help the service member step back and take inventory of their goals, their skills, what they can bring to a company,” Foshee says. “The companies participating share candidates and collaborate. It helps us as recruiters find the best talent and put them in the right role.”

Victoria Ollo was an Army officer and a West Point graduate with a background in nuclear energy. Although she spent her Army career in intelligence, she went into nuclear energy through Troops to Energy jobs when she left the Army.

She found the website, filled out a profile and submitted her résumé for review. The program helped her tweak her résumé to better reflect her skills and education for the civilian job market.

“I spent five years in the Army doing military intelligence,” Ollo says. “I gained an assortment of leadership, management and organizational skills, but the more technical military intelligence skills that I had don't translate very smoothly into the role that I'm doing now. I was able to find the database of companies and organizations out there, which eventually led me to Jeremy.”

Ollo says meeting Foshee, a military veteran with energy experience and the skills of a recruiter for the industry, made all the difference.

“Transitioning from the military to a civilian career is challenging, no matter what,” Ollo says. “Even with a background in nuclear, I was having trouble getting much traction through the traditional applying to jobs on websites. Finding a recruiter who was looking for me was the key.”

Best of all, Troops to Energy Jobs apprenticeship programs are available as part of the Defense Department’s SkillBridge program, which means transitioning service members can spend their last six months in the military while in the apprenticeship. As they work, they still receive their military pay and benefits as they transition to civilian life.

Any military member or veteran looking for training in an energy career should visit Troops to Energy Jobs to learn more, see what apprenticeships are available and apply online.

Military members and veterans with an existing energy background also can submit their résumés for review on the Troops to Energy Jobs site.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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