Transitioning from the military to a civilian job can be a tough challenge. A new program announced recently at Joint Base Lewis McChord seeks to change that.

The VIE-25 program — which stands for Veterans Industry Education — connects service members with career credentials during their last six months of military service so they qualify for in-demand jobs right away.

The program is a unique collaboration between the community and technical college system, state agencies and the armed forces. It is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation. The number 25 refers to community and technical colleges within 25 miles of JBLM.

“We would like to see our transitioning service members hired from day one,” said JBLM commander Col. Daniel S. Morgan. “Instead of leaving the service and then looking at colleges, we want service members to earn a credential and become immediately employable. In much the same way a military technical school prepares service members for the next military assignment, this program can help prepare military members for their next assignment in life.”

Morgan added, “Not only does our transition program help identify employment opportunities like this for our service members, it prepares them to continue to be members of the community. It is absolutely a win-win!”

Through VIE-25, service members can visit wacareerpaths.com to explore high-demand careers and access industry-recognized credentials at community and technical colleges within a 25-mile radius of JBLM.

Initial training is aimed at programs that take six months or less to complete and lead to jobs with growth potential. For example, Bates offers an accelerated pathway for veterans who have worked as a medic to become a practical nurse. More information about this pathway is located on the college’s Practical Nurse webpage.

With approval from their commanding officers, service members may participate in programs featured on the website as their official military duty in the last six months of service.

Career counselors will help service members access ways to pay for tuition through federal, state and local funding. Organizers are encouraging approved service members to contact colleges as soon as possible to prepare for winter quarter in January.

Active duty service members can already enroll in courses now, but they have to do it on their own time.

“The goal is to jump start careers before these service members even leave JBLM,” said Marty Brown, executive director of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

VIE-25 is a partnership between JBLM, Washington’s community and technical college system and public workforce systems. The public workforce systems have been working through Camo2Commerce, a federal grant-funded project that integrates workforce systems with transition services at JBLM. Public workforce systems are publicly-funded agencies and offices that help connect businesses with qualified employees. They may provide employment services, support services and, in some cases, financial assistance for career training.

“We’re all joining forces to streamline the process and coordinate resources for service members,” said Cheryl B. Fambles, CEO of Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, the Camo2Commerce organizational lead. “We’re helping cement career paths and removing any obstacles that get in the way.”

JBLM and Naval Base Kitsap are the starting points for VIE-25, which the partners hope will grow to include other military bases in Washington.

VIE-25 was announced at the 2015 Washington State Service Member for Life Military Transition Summit, an event focused on improving employment for service members and veterans. The summit brings together key federal and state agencies, military leaders, employers and community leaders, along with transitioning service members, veterans and their families.

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