By Chris Mandia
Posted in Articles
For many Americans, life after military service can seem daunting. Naturally, it takes time to adjust to the civilian world, especially after serving several tours in a war zone.
Unfortunately, veterans of yesteryear were generally left to fend for themselves in this regard. Many managed to survive–utilizing skills handed down by mentors and gleaned from college classrooms. Fortunately, the American public and the Veterans Administration realized this folly and attempted to remedy it with the Transitional Assistance Program.
The brainchild of a three-year pilot program provided for by the Veterans Benefits Amendments of 1989, the Transitional Assistance Program was born.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is a nationally coordinated federal effort to assist military men and women to ease the transition to civilian life through employment and job training assistance.”
In partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), Labor (DOL) and Homeland Security (DHS), the Veterans Administration has taken actions to improve TAP’s content and increase participation among it’s service-members.
Officially established in 1990, the Transition Assistance Program has provided information on veterans’ benefits, employment, relocation assistance, education, health and life insurance and financial planning. Over 2.5 million veterans have participated in the TAP program since it’s inception over 20 years ago.
Understandably, this erstwhile program was in need of an update. In order serve the current band of Iraq and Afghanistan vets, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs realized the concept required a complete transformation. Composed of several new additions, the modern Transition Assistance Program includes the following:
Service members will be required to fill out an online assessment form that determines how ready they are to transition from the military to civilian job market. Three categories of employment readiness (high, moderate and entry-level) will determine what route each individual military person will take.
All this happens before the actual workshop. During the workshop, each participant will receive a manual containing valuable information, including points of contact around the nation for many of the services needed after separation.
Open to all branches on a space available basis (no matter which service may be hosting), there will be three versions of the workshop on hand to help serve the troops better. The new content will be in accordance to the aforementioned categories.
Addressing such job hunting subjects as training/employment opportunities, labor market information, civilian workplace requirements, resume standards, interviewing techniques and job analysis, TAP suggests participants attend employment workshops at least 180 days prior to separation.
Learning by doing, participants will also develop and rehearse a one-minute elevator speech, practice interviewing and learn stress-reduction techniques. For more information regarding vocational/job training, visit the Department of Defense run website, www.turbotap.org.
In order to tackle a new and changing world awash in social networking and online search engines, TAP has updated its overall content. This includes: Life and career planning, how to create a network, peer support groups, stress reduction techniques, mental resiliency, entrepreneurship and how to successfully transition from the battlefield to the civilian world.
Yet another new and exciting addition to the Transition Assistance Program is the availability of career mentors. Once transitioners complete the workshop, they’ll have access to a one-on-one job coach.
The days of faded handouts, asymmetrical copies and enormous paper packets are gone. These poor quality presentations have been replaced by the current TAP workshop with nearly 200 PowerPoint slides. But don’t fret; handouts are still available–just better quality and less paper this time around.
Continuing in the vein of an ever-changing world, the Virtually Enhanced Transition Program (VTAP) takes advantage of online and digital resources, virtual classrooms, social media and other 21st century information platforms.
Utilizing media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, the Department of Defense has finally begun to realize the power of the internet. In tune with the current generation, service members and their families are able to access virtual resources in order to tailor their own transition experience.
Administrators of the new TAP program will be able to fine tune and measure the effectiveness of their programs through feedback. In order to remain relevant, the Department of Veteran Affairs will gather observations from military members after they attend the TAP workshop. Administrators plan to marry this with questionnaires during a participant’s job search.
Although many who’ve served in the military find a daunting task ahead of them once they transition to the civilian world, help is out there. Among the many federal and state programs available to veterans, the Transition Assistance Program is one of the best.