Learn & Earn

The December meeting of “Learn & Earn: A Young Leaders’ Group for the Development of the U.S. Workforce” discussed another facet of workforce development: re-integrating military veterans into the labor market. Ms. Dana Hendrickson, Director of Outreach and Advocacy at the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), gave insights into the challenges for veterans and highlighted her organization’s initiatives, which included a project successfully concluded earlier this year advocating employment of veterans throughout Maryland named “Operation Hire.”

Employment is not strictly among the Maryland VA’s chief responsibilities; it is mainly concerned with assisting veterans in filing requests to the federal-level VA. Still, the idea for Operation Hire took off with a press release on Memorial Day and the goal of sparking full employment for Maryland veterans by the end of calendar year 2015. The project, despite little time for preparation before it went into action on June 1, 2014, took on a life of its own as media picked up on the initiative, and participating employers went beyond hiring veterans to retooling HR practices to better support veterans in the workplace. By the deadline on September 9, Operation Hire tallied 184 participant private sector businesses, state agencies, and local administrations, with 361 reported hires. The spectrum within the private sector was wide, from small businesses with fewer than 20 employees to multi-national corporations. The employers with the highest absolute number of hires, a defense contractor, and the highest number relative to the total workforce, an auto maintenance franchise that brought the percentage of veteran employees to 50 percent, were both formally recognized by the project.

Evaluating the project, the Maryland VA would like to see efforts aimed at giving Operation Hire a long-term form. It could, using similar long-term initiatives in other states as models. This would institutionalize collaborative efforts between businesses and agencies. This type of program could utilize business representatives who, throughout the course of the project, made their resources available for future collaboration.

The discussion among the working group also brought insights about how both state and local chambers of commerce can contribute through providing veteran-specific services. Further, the Departments of Labor Licensing and Regulation, as well as Higher Education Commissions were identified as playing major roles in promoting the program and guiding veterans toward apprenticeships and vocational training. It was agreed that institutionalizing Operation Hire in the long term would benefit businesses through the wide array of specialized and soft skills that veterans can provide.

Learn and Earn Design 2Information about the working group:

The American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) at Johns Hopkins has been working on bringing together a number of different actors concerned with workforce development in the U.S. to encourage sharing of ideas, learning lessons from different countries, seeing what challenges lay ahead, and where further cooperation is needed to encourage public-private partnerships towards promoting specialized skills training opportunities.

“Learn & Earn” is a working group of young professionals from a variety of different sectors and backgrounds (energy, education, finance, industry, manufacturing, etc.) that gather monthly to discuss the role of workforce training in economic development around the world.

Past events:

  • June, 2014: Robert Dehm from the German Embassy’s Economic Department presented the German Embassy’s Skills Initiative.
  • July: Zach Boren, Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeships, explained how they are trying to brand apprenticeships to an American audience.
  • August: Max Grünig, Senior Fellow of Ecologic, led a discussion on the growth of green industry in Europe and the U.S. and how that has spurred growth of apprenticeship programs in that field.
  • September: Katie Gage from Enstitute talked about her nonprofit organization and the challenges they run into in recruiting young applicants.
  • October: Dr. Achim Dercks, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, presented on the role of domestic institutions on developing sustainable apprenticeship programs, during our first field trip to the Representative of German Industry + Trade (RGIT).
  • November: Kimberly Frank, Parke Nicholson, and Sarah Steinberg debriefed on their site visits to apprentice programs in Hungary, France, Germany, and the UK, and lessons learned for the U.S.

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