New federal program helps troops with transition
Active-duty servicemembers who plan to enter the civilian workforce or go to school will soon be required to participate in a new initiative to help them adjust to life after service before they’re discharged.
The Transition Goals Plans Success — or Transition GPS — is the overhaul of the government’s 20-year-old Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and is being tested at seven military installations.
The new program is a big step in the right direction, says Garland Williams, associate regional vice president of the University of Phoenix Military Division. The White House initiative mandates that troops attend pre-separation classes covering subjects such as personal finances, vocational training and education opportunities. It’s expected to be in place in all military branches by the end of 2013.
Here are four key components of the new training:
More one-on-one counseling
Advisors will team with servicemembers 12 months before their scheduled discharge to explore career goals during the testing period. They’ll draft Individual Transition Plans — step-by-step checklists outlining tasks to complete to meet career goals, including education or training.
Once the training is in place throughout all military branches, the program will begin 24 months before separation from duty, so some troops will have training for their entire two-year enlistment.
“When I went through the old TAP program, I was underwhelmed,” says Williams, a retired U.S. Army colonel. He recalls that, in addition to the outdated four-day class, a counselor met with him the day before he started his transition leave to hand him discharge papers and wish him luck.
Files of personal skills and finances
Troops will leave with detailed files translating their military skills and experiences into language suitable for a civilian occupation or job search, Williams says. They’ll also be required to prepare 12-month budgets addressing post-military needs, including household, education and career-related expenses.
“This is the time in a military career where the emphasis has to be on the servicemember and not on selfless service,” he says.
Under the old TAP program, soon-to-be veterans packed into an auditorium for a voluntary, four-day workshop, Williams remembers, where they learned little more than basic resumé writing tips.
Deeper exploration of opportunities
Some servicemembers may choose to attend optional workshops on education, career technical training or entrepreneurship, Williams says, where counselors will address such individual needs as tuition assistance, small-business loans and the GI Bill® benefits.
“By the end of the two days, you’ll have submitted an application to your education or training institution of choice,” Williams adds. Counselors also will help with employment searches and resumé writing for those who plan to enter the job market directly. And there’ll be an optional, online entrepreneurial course on how to start a small business.
Requirements to prove you’ve done the work
Servicemembers will have to provide evidence to counselors that they’ve completed their Individual Transition Plans or started their educational pursuits, along with their 12-month personal budgets. This final stage of training, known as the “capstone event” is still in development but is expected to be fully implemented by October.
GI Bill is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at benefits.va.gov/gibill.