New statewide initiative seeks to provide job security for veterans

By Melanie Watson

Military members and their families are the focus of a multi-million dollar investment by the state. In fall 2016, the $10 million Georgia Military and Academic Training Center is scheduled to open in Warner Robins, focused on helping veterans earn academic credentials that are necessary to enter the civilian workforce.

The driving force behind the statewide initiative is to give active duty military and veterans and their families the education they need to attain meaningful employment as civilians. About 875,000 individuals are in active duty, with 60,000-80,000 expected to return within the next few years, said Col. Patricia Ross, the new director of military affairs for the Technical College System of Georgia.

“They really sacrifice so much only to be released from military service without a pathway to get a job that takes advantage of their great experience and global perspective,” Ross said. “With the number of active duty military and veterans in the state of Georgia, this truly is the right thing to do for those who have served voluntarily.”

While military members boast strong organizational and leadership skills, plus global experience, many struggle to find civilian jobs once their service ends.

Currently, military members and veterans can attend many Technical College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia schools to receive certifications in hundreds of educational programs. The 50,000-square-foot facility, located behind Robins Air Force Base, is expected to accelerate that learning process by providing with assistance with education and training, credit transfers and job placement.

“They might have all of the experience necessary, but until you can convert that into something the civilian industry recognizes such as a diploma or certificate, it’s hard to get that job,” said Ross. “We’re looking to maximize credit for what they’ve learned during their military service either via training or experience and to shorten the amount of time they would need to take classes to receive that certification to walk right into a job.”

The military outreach initiative also extends beyond the training center, to work with industries to identify hiring projections and commitments to hire veterans coming out of these programs.

“Georgia is fifth in the nation for the number of active duty in the state and we’re eighth for the number of veterans,” Ross said. “With the capacity we’ll have in the military academic training center, we’ll be able to reach hundreds, if not thousands, throughout the state.”

The cost to enroll in the training center will be the same as attending any of the 24 technical college within the state. Tuition is $89 per credit hour, and many applicants will qualify for veterans benefits, the Pell Grant and other financial aid. A high school diploma is required.

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