Army Reserve’s Employer Partnership Program Off and Running

I’m not a big fan of clichés, but I just attended a Tuesday morning session at the SHRM Conference in Las Vegas that seems like such a perfect example of “win-win,” I had to share.

By now, many of you have heard about the U.S. Army Reserve’s Employer Partnership Program that launched in 2008 — joining the efforts of employers and the reserves to benefit both by coordinating military training with civilian-skills needs. But you might not be aware of how fast it’s growing and how well it’s working.

Brig. Gen. Tim Williams, deputy commanding general for the Washington-based U.S. Army Reserve spelled it out for those who came to hear “An Innovative Approach to Workforce Development: Increasing Employment Trends Within the U.S. Army Reserve.”

Basically a brainstorm led by Lt. Gen. Jack C. Schultz, the program links employers with veterans and reservists looking to rejoin the U.S. civilian workforce by setting up the right lines of communication so the military organization can train and certify soldiers to be able to step into jobs or return to jobs that have changed and grown, and be productive and successful.

“It’s our job to ensure our soldiers make as easy a transition as possible back into civilian life,” said Williams. But employers no longer have to exercise sheer benevolence by taking in a returning veteran in need of additonal training and transition support. The program “actually saves them the expense” of employee-support services often spent on all employees.

For instance, all field medics are now getting emergency-medical-technician training and certification. In transportation-type duties, reservists are now getting commercial drivers’ licenses and certifications. X-ray technicians are now leaving the reserves certified. Medics are getting the additional training they’ll need for specific posts in medical and pharmaceutical organizations.

The reserves are even conducting the health screening and drug screening tests for employers they’ve contracted with. Religious counseling, family support, health services for disabled and brain-injured veterans, mental-health counseling … all are provided by the military, free of charge to the employer they’ve contracted with.

“We’re using best practices in a business sense now, and this includes implementing an enterprise approach that ensures more predictable deployments” so employers are no longer caught unawares, Williams said.

The cost to employers? Cut. The cost to the military? Actually and surprisingly, no change. Williams said it was simply a matter of “figuring it out … and learning how to run our organization more efficiently” by cutting unnecessary programs or personnel, and adding the trainers and counselors in far-more strategically productive capacities.

The first employer contracted was Inova Health Systems in Fairfax, Va., which — in two years — has gone from one to 275 reservist soldiers hired. The program now includes 1,300 contracted employers.

“This has grown so big,” Williams said. “There’s such a need for soldiers coming off the field to find productive life and work. This is on the verge of becoming a really big deal.” In fact, to help younger returning infantry find meaningful work, the entire Army (what Williams called the “big Army”) will soon be included in the program that, so far, services the reserve’s 206,000 “employees, most of them part-time, and most of them equipped with the Army’s engineering and medical expertise.”

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the program’s new website, www.employerpartnership.org, will be up and running. Wasn’t working when I was posting this, for some reason. But if you’re interested, you know you can find what you need, fellow Googler.

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