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Reskilling and Upskilling Veterans in the Workplace

I-O Psychology's Contribution to Career Advancement

Submitted by: Destinee Prete, PhD, Captain (CPT), Army Veteran, Chair, SIOP Military & Veterans Inclusion Committee

The transition from military service to civilian life is a significant milestone for veterans. As they embark on this journey, many veterans encounter challenges in translating their military skills and experiences into opportunities in the civilian job market. One crucial aspect that can make this transition smoother and more successful is ongoing education and training, often referred to as reskilling and upskilling. This article will discuss the importance of reskilling and upskilling for veterans and explore how industrial and organizational (I-O) psychologists can play a pivotal role in supporting these initiatives.

The Value of Ongoing Education and Training

The job landscape is constantly evolving, driven by advancements in technology and changes in industry demands. The workforce must transform to keep pace with the workplace (Moats, 2021). To remain competitive and adapt to these changes, veterans need opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge. Reskilling involves learning entirely new skills relevant to a different career path, whereas upskilling focuses on enhancing existing skills to meet current job requirements. Both reskilling and upskilling are essential for veterans to secure meaningful employment and advance in their chosen fields. This ongoing commitment to education and training not only bolsters veterans' employability but also aligns with the principles of lifelong learning and professional development. In today's rapidly changing work environment, individuals who continually update their skills are better equipped to navigate career transitions and seize emerging opportunities. Employers should consider allocating resources to broaden their efforts to include career development that is likely to aid in retention of veterans in their workforce (Hall et al., 2014; Kintzle et al., 2015). As such, reskilling and upskilling initiatives tailored to veterans represent a strategic investment to both organizations and veterans long-term career success.

Challenges Faced by Veterans

Veterans bring a wealth of transferable skills such as leadership, discipline, and teamwork from their military service. However, they often face difficulties in aligning these skills with civilian job requirements, which has been highlighted as one of the most significant employment-related challenges they face (Kintzle et al., 2015). Additionally, some veterans may lack the formal education or specific certifications required by many civilian occupations. The military offers extensive training, but it may not always align with the academic or industry-specific qualifications sought by civilian employers. This disparity between skills and job requirements can result in underemployment or unemployment among veterans. It can be disheartening for veterans who possess exceptional skills developed during their service to find themselves in roles that do not fully recognize nor utilize their potential. Addressing these challenges and supporting veterans in reskilling and upskilling initiatives is crucial not only for their individual success but also for the benefit of organizations that can tap into this valuable pool of talent. This is where the expertise of I-O psychologists becomes invaluable in facilitating veterans' career growth and helping them reach their full potential in the civilian workforce.

The Role of I-O Psychologists

I-O psychologists occupy a unique position in addressing the multifaceted challenges that veterans encounter during their transition to civilian careers. Armed with expertise in assessing individuals' competencies, designing effective training programs, and optimizing organizational processes, they offer valuable insights and solutions to facilitate veterans' reskilling and upskilling initiatives.

First, I-O psychologists can play a pivotal role in conducting comprehensive skills assessments tailored specifically for veterans. These assessments serve as the cornerstone upon which personalized reskilling and upskilling plans are built. By identifying veterans' strengths and areas requiring development, I-O psychologists enable the creation of targeted training programs that align with individual needs. These programs may encompass a range of educational modalities, including classroom instruction, online courses, workshops, and on-the-job training, all designed to maximize veterans' learning potential.

Next, I-O psychologists employ their expertise in adult learning principles to craft training initiatives that cater to the unique requirements of veterans. This tailored approach acknowledges that veterans bring distinct learning styles and preferences shaped by their military experiences. Additionally, I-O psychologists excel in competency mapping, a crucial process that bridges the gap between military skills and civilian job competencies. Through this mapping, veterans gain a profound understanding of how their military experiences translate into qualifications highly regarded in the civilian job market. Such insights are invaluable for veterans seeking to navigate the complexities of the civilian job landscape.

Furthermore, I-O psychologists offer essential career counseling and guidance services for veterans, aiding them in making informed decisions regarding their career paths and educational choices. This guidance is particularly valuable as veterans often grapple with aligning their military background with their aspirations in the civilian workforce. Finally, I-O psychologists extend their influence into organizations, collaborating with employers to foster inclusive and supportive environments for veterans. By championing diversity and inclusion initiatives, they actively promote the successful integration of veterans into the workforce, recognizing the unique perspectives and talents they bring to organizations.

Conclusion

In conclusion, reskilling and upskilling initiatives for veterans, facilitated by the expertise of I-O psychologists, are vital steps toward their career advancement in the civilian workforce. As veterans transition from military service, they face unique challenges in aligning their skills with civilian job requirements. The dynamic nature of today's job landscape, driven by technology and industry shifts, emphasizes the need for ongoing education and training. I-O psychologists play a pivotal role by assessing competencies, designing tailored training programs, mapping military skills to civilian competencies, offering career guidance, and advocating for inclusive workplaces. This collaborative effort not only benefits veterans but also enriches organizations by harnessing the remarkable talent and dedication veterans bring to the civilian workforce.

*Each year, the SIOP Military & Veterans Inclusion Committee gets an opportunity to share insights into relevant military-connected topics and the intersection of the field of industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology during the month of November in celebration and reflection of Veterans Day (November 11). The committee shares insights from its members through four different articles and several social media posts. This article is the second article of four; the first article is available online.

References

Hall, K. C., Harrell, M. C., Bicksler, B. A., Stewart, R., & Fisher, M. P. (2014). Veteran employment: Lessons from the 100,000 jobs mission. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

Kintzle, S., Keeling, M., Xintarianos, E., Taylor-Diggs, K., Munch, C., Hassan, A. & Castro, C. (2015). Exploring the economic & employment challenges facing U.S. Veterans: A qualitative study of volunteers of America service providers & veteran clients. USC School of Social Work, Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families.

Moats, J. (2021). Preparing for the future of work and the development of expertise. In Germain, M. L. & Grenier, R. S. (eds) Expertise at work. Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-64371-3_1

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