With calls for improvements in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), The American Legion’s Veterans Employment and Education Commission heard some suggestions Monday at the Legion’s Washington Conference.
“We’re all about making it better at Department of Labor; we’re not fighting it at all,” said Tim Green, director of the Office of Strategic Outreach in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS).
A partnership between the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and VETS, TAP aims to help servicemembers transition into civilian life by helping with job searches and other related services.
Part of that is the five-day workshop that transitioning servicemembers are required to attend. Ben Clarke, innovation director for learning and development company Hemsley Fraser, pitched an idea to follow up on that workshop with a more interactive approach.
By “rebundling” the assets of the face-to-face learning, Hemsley Fraser’s portal — tailored to The American Legion in this case — would give transitioning servicemembers a year or more to access what they’ve learned.
“Our idea is to take elements of the TAP program, break it down, fit it into this format so that learners have a chance to not only attend the face-to-face session but to have this engaging digital format as well,” Clarke said.
The platform would be accessible via smartphone or computer and would include infographics, video and “fluidbooks,” more interactive versions of books online.
“You can take what might otherwise be some quite dry material and make it very interactive and very engaging,” Clarke said.
“The idea is that we’re trying to encourage continuous learning. So it’s not just a matter of attending a workshop, ‘Thank you very much, goodbye,’ it’s about this idea of continuous contact … facilitated in this very accessible and easy way. It’s no good if your members have to spend hours trying to decipher the system,” Clarke added.
While the proposal focused on the TAP program, Clarke said his agency is focused on working with the Legion at this time.
Dan Hawthorne of Educational Testing Service talked about implementing an assessment to give transitioning servicemembers a “road map” to finding the right civilian career. Hawthorne said the assessment asks questions that reflect areas of interest as opposed to particular skills.
“People who are more realistic, who want to work with things, versus work with people, usually you see people move toward one or the other,” he said.
VE&E Assistant Director Ariel De Jesus said it’s important to find ways to improve TAP.
“My goal is to try and get The American Legion to spearhead this effort to make transition a lot smoother for our servicemembers; they deserve it,” he said.
Erica Courtney, CEO of 2020Vet and a board member of the U.S. Veteran Business Alliance, emphasized the importance of reaching servicemembers in the first three years after their transition.
"We have a three-year safety net to catch our veterans," she said. "It’s imperative we get it right and we expose them to all the opportunities they have in front of them."