Having served in the military, I’m intimately aware of the role that energy plays in our ability to defend and uphold our national security. This became apparent to me in many ways during my time in the field, to the safety of my unit who ran fuel supply convoys in theater and the dangers we faced in carrying our duties, to hearing about the economic struggles of my relatives and friends back home to afford gas to drive and heat their homes. We understand, perhaps better than anyone, that our pursuit of energy independence and national security are closely linked.
I also know the struggles faced by many Veterans once they leave the service and try to find quality work. Last year for example, the unemployment rate for veterans who served after September 11th was 11.5% compared to 9.4% unemployment amongst non-veterans. Potential employers don’t always understand the value and experience that Veterans can bring to the workforce. And in some cases, it’s difficult for Veterans to express how the jobs we were trained to do in the military are transferable to jobs on the outside. Veterans have the skills, knowledge, leadership and professionalism to excel in any number of fields – including the energy sector. We simply need a bridge to join the wider workforce and contribute to the jobs of the future.
This week, Secretary Chu joined the Edison Electric Institute and the Center for Energy Workforce Development as they announced a new program that will help bridge that divide and increase opportunities for Veterans in the energy sector. “Troops to Energy Jobs” brings together public, non-profit and private sector partners in a pilot program that will provide transitional career training and counseling to help Veterans enter the workforce and get jobs in the energy industry.
A partnership program like “Troops to Energy Jobs” is a great first step in the direction of helping solve the critical problem of Veterans unemployment in this country. The program will be managed by the Center for Energy Workforce Development, a non-profit group of electric, natural gas and nuclear utility companies. The Energy Department will contribute to this partnership through the National Training Education Resource Center (NTER), a virtual campus that can offer interactive training for people online. After training, Veterans can be matched and then enter jobs related to their training with private sector employers who value the skills and experience we bring to the workforce. “Troops to Energy Jobs” is launching as a pilot program and its sponsors hope to be able to expand it to the entire energy industry.
As a proud Veteran and new employee at Energy, I know how much this effort means to those who have served and are eager to continue their contribution to our national security. I look forward to following the stories of Veterans as they go through the program and begin to translate their military skills in to energy sector achievements.
Article by Steve Dunwoody, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Energy and an Iraq War Veteran.