CWA May Soon Say 'Hi' as Vets Say 'Bye'

Soon, as a soldier is saying goodbye to Uncle Sam, he or she may be saying hello to CWA.

The union greeting will be part of a pilot program being developed by CWA and financed by a U.S. Department of Labor grant to help GI's locate civilian telecommunications training and development programs.

The $138,000 DOL grant will help CWA create a unique, Internet-based job-tracking and skills-assessment program for all persons leaving military service who have telecommunications training.

Said CWA Executive Vice President M.E. Nichols, whose responsibilities include development of employment and training programs, "We look forward to devising an electronic screening and testing process for the men and women who have served in the armed forces."

The DOL job-tracking and skills-assessment grant was announced Nov. 6 by Deputy Secretary of Labor Kathryn "Kitty" Higgins, who said the department hopes that the grant will "put veterans leaving the military and trained in telecommunications on a fast track to apprenticeships and jobs" after their separation.

"Making armed services training translate to the private-sector work force is key to our priority of skills development and lifelong learning," Higgins added.

Paul Anderson, CWA's director of employment and training services, and Steve Hill, CWA's employment and training administrator, said as many as 160,000 military personnel who return to civilian life annually seek out guidance counseling before their discharge.

Several telecommunications companies with which CWA holds contracts - including at least two regional Bell operating companies - have already expressed interest in working with the union to recruit talent, Anderson said.

Some veterans who may require additional training or course work, Anderson also said, will be directed to apprenticeship and skill certification programs that will enable them to qualify for career-building jobs. Veterans will be able to use their education benefits to pay for any additional training, Higgins said.

Hill said CWA plans to offer the skills and aptitude assessment program over the Internet. The program will evaluate veterans' technical abilities and help them determine the best job match for their skills, interests and career goals.

He said a companion grant from the DOL - to the Women's Research and Education Institute - will help veterans correlate military occupational skills with civilian skills. CWA Secretary-Treasurer Barbara J. Easterling is a member of the WREI board of directors.

"This program will help veterans use the skills obtained in the military to succeed in good jobs in a growing industry," said Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman.

"Veterans are highly-skilled, highly-creative workers who are ready, willing and able to contribute to the economic success of any organization," she added.

The grants are from the DOL's Veterans' Employment and Training Service, which will conduct pilot testing at selected sites where VETS conducts its three-day Transition Assistance Program.

During TAP programs, VETS conducts workshops for service members who are about to be discharged from active duty, according to Al Borrego, assistant secretary for VETS.