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Leveraging Transferrable Skills: Using Military Experience and Training to Revolutionize the Economy and Create Smarter Business Practices

Submitted by Destinee Prete, PhD, chair of the SIOP Military and Veterans Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee, and Shenica Nelson, MSIOP, member of the SIOP Military and Veterans Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee, as part of a regular series of articles SIOP runs each November in recognition of Veterans’ Day in the United States. The first and second articles ran earlier this month.


Reflecting on my career, what is clear is that the US Air Force (USAF) created a blueprint for learning agility. I could quickly adapt to the situation and pivot using my skills toolbox (i.e., integrating technology & social cues) to deliver the necessary effects and achieve mission results. As someone once said, we do not rise to the occasion; instead, we fall to the level of our training. That has really resonated with me over the years as a focus area because leveraging skills to inform business decisions with speed, agility, and accuracy is a strategic imperative. The volatility and uncertainty of the global landscape comes to no surprise—we must leverage transferrable skills to create smarter business practices. While there’s been tremendous investments and success regarding “person-job fit,” reskilling and upskilling are only part of the equation. Much like physical exercise, building the “muscle” of a growth mindset using our military experiences of pushing to failure so that we can debrief, adapt, and overcome has been a decisive advantage—where we never accept good enough. In closing, I know our veterans are clearly positioned to leverage their skills toolboxes to create smarter business practices. Without a doubt, our veterans are a great resource to drive those smarter business practices and organizational outcomes.

  • Matthew Trafican, Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) (Retired), USAF, PhD, Member of SIOP Military & Veterans Inclusion (ad hoc) Committee


There are more than 3.3 million post-9/11 veterans currently in the United States and more than 200,000 veterans that transition from the military each year, with the number of post-9/11 veterans projected to grow to more than four million by the end of 2026, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (2016). Over the years, programs to assist veterans in articulating their unique training and experiences have emerged, federally and corporately, building a bridge between military backgrounds and civilian affairs. Service members (SMs) receive extensive training to develop and strengthen their leadership. They are provided basic military training, occupational training, leadership training, specialized training for various career and professional development pathways, and annual, iterative training for maintaining proficiency. Throughout their service, they are consistently trained and empowered, and this theme is continued even through the end of their service. When transitioning from the military and into the civilian workforce, SMs receive mandatory transition assistance training to aid in favorable development in the private sector (Castaneda, 2019). Additionally, they receive specific training, coaching, and mentoring on the intricacies of the workforce and how to translate their extensive training backgrounds and skillsets into roles outside of the uniform.

Labor economists, over the years, have examined how military experience affects future civilian work utilizing various data sources and methods, including archival panel data and data from government sources, cross-sectional surveys, and experimental designs (Gonzalez & Simpson, 2020). Nonetheless, this economic perspective on the transferability of military experiences uses a macro lens while highlighting the importance of transferability and is unable to answer questions about how organizations can best capitalize on the skills and abilities that people develop in the military. Transferable skills among SMs include but are not limited to effective communication, self-sufficiency, integrity and honor, discipline, critical thinking, ability to perform under pressure, and problem solving. Veterans also possess desirable values, competencies, and knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). As the U.S. labor force undergoes extensive market challenges, enhancing support among military veterans and affiliated individuals can be an effective strategy to strengthen organizations and the economy. Military veterans are a valuable part of the human capital resource pool (Aronson et al., 2019; Gonzalez & Simpson, 2020).

Where previously organizations were unable to access SMs during their service, there are now programs that enable SMs to spend the last few months of their military duty gaining workforce experiences. Currently, there are programs that are funded by the government, such as the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Skillbridge Program, which allows organizations to “tap into the expertise by sponsoring internships and pre-apprenticeship programs” (DoD Skillbridge, 2022). Military SMs who are within 180 days from release of their active duty may be eligible to participate in training and development with industry (DoD Skillbridge). Some of the military services also support the Career Skills Program (CSP), which “affords transitioning SMs the opportunity to participate in employment skills training, on-the-job training, pre-apprenticeships and internships with a high probability of employment in high-demand and highly skilled jobs” (CSP, 2022). Additionally, there are several other programs through various organizations outside of the DoD and government that train SMs and Veterans on highly desirable skills and pipeline them into jobs immediately following. Organizations should consider taking advantage of these programs, which can simultaneously impact their DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility) strategies and goals.

Understanding and leveraging transferrable competencies, skillsets, and talents of our military and veteran populations can be beneficial for I-O psychology professionals and organizations alike. A unique skill of an I-O psychology practitioner is critical thinking. I-O psychology practitioners can design and implement training regimens that focus on solutions and partnerships to help veterans find equitable employment within their specialized area. Additionally, there are several military-connected professionals within the I-O psychology field, and they are unique in that they are competent practitioners and relatable among veterans with enhanced transferrable skills needed in the U.S. labor force. Helping organizations to understand, benefit from, and advocate for veterans can help create a unilateral framework for economic development.

If you are looking for more information on how to access these programs, consider reaching out to the SIOP Military & Veterans Inclusion Ad Hoc Committee.


Aronson, K. R., Perkins, D. F., Morgan, N. R., Bleser, J. A., Vogt, D., Copeland, L., Finley, E., & Gilman, C. (2019). Post-9/11 veteran transitions to civilian life: Predictors of the use of employment programs. Journal of Veterans Studies5(1), 14–22.

Career Skills Program (CSP). (2022). Career skills program. https://home.army.mil/imcom/index.php/customers/career-skills-program.

Castaneda, D. J. (2020). A case study of military transition to civilian life (Order No. 27743856). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2385216047).

DoD Skillbridge. (2022). DoD Skillbridge program. https://skillbridge.osd.mil/.

Gonzalez, J. A., & Simpson, J. (2021;2020;). The workplace integration of veterans: Applying diversity and fit perspectives. Human Resource Management Review, 31(2), 100775.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). (2016). National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. https://www.va.gov/vetdata/.

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