One of the most common challenges voiced by local employers is the difficulty they face in recruiting people with the skills or professional credentials they need to remain competitive in today’s economy. Fortunately, we have a talent pool right in our midst of which you may not be aware—the transitioning soldiers and military spouses. Let’s consider the opportunities presented by each group and how you can reach them.
At Fort Drum, 200 to 300 soldiers transition out of the Army each month as they retire or reach the end of their service obligation. These former soldiers possess a wide range of technical skills and professional degrees. They include experienced welders, mechanics, technicians, information technology specialists, logistics managers, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, administrators, MBAs, and professional engineers. They also tend to possess qualities highly valued by employers: a strong work ethic, resourcefulness, and the ability to work effectively in teams.
In exit surveys, about one-third of transitioning soldiers indicate their desire to stay here in the region. They enjoy the region’s quality of life, they value the quality of our schools, and/or they’ve simply established strong ties to the community. Another third of those soldiers are open to going wherever they can find a good job, whether it’s here or somewhere else. So, two-thirds of transitioning soldiers (approximately 2,000 per year) represent potential recruits for local employers. (The remaining third have set plans to return to their home state and look for work there.)
Employers have several opportunities to recruit these transitioning soldiers. The Fort Drum Transition and Employment Assistance Program (TEAP) hosts quarterly career fairs, regular hiring events, and custom hiring events for interested employers. You also have the chance to “test drive” a soldier through the TEAP’s Career Skills internship program. When a soldier is within six months of separating from the Army, they can be placed in an internship position (appropriate to their skills and education) that allows the soldier to see if he or she is truly interested in that work (no comma here), and allows the company to see if that soldier is a good fit for their workplace. There is no cost to the employer. Several local employers have utilized this program to successfully recruit needed talent.
Military spouses of soldiers assigned to Fort Drum also possess a wide range of desirable skills, training, and educational backgrounds. Many have obtained a college degree or certificate and have worked in a professional capacity. Citing a recent survey of this group by the Fort Drum Transitioning and Employment Assistance Program (TEAP), 95 percent have some education beyond high school, 36 percent possess a bachelor’s degree, and 20 percent have a masters or advanced degree. An additional five percent have a certificate or license in a professional field. They have also developed strong personal qualities resulting from the unique demands on their life. Accompanying their soldier spouse to new duty stations and managing the household while their soldier is deployed for extended periods of time, they have become resilient and adaptable. Being new to the community, however, they may not have yet learned of that vacancy you’re trying to fill. Military spouses are also three times more likely to engage in volunteer activities as a way to develop skills and personal connections.
The TEAP program works with military spouses as well as transitioning soldiers, but there is also another effective channel for reaching military spouses—the Fort Drum Chapter of the Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network (MSPN). Started in April 2020, the local MSPN chapter already has 1,750 active participants. The group is social media savvy and conducts regular meetings (virtual at this time). They are effective at networking among those already living here and with incoming spouses who may be starting their job search prior to arriving here for their soldier spouse’s new duty station at Fort Drum.
For general information, including internship program:
Craig A. McNamara, Transition Services Manager
Fort Drum — Transition and Employment Assistance Program
Phone: (315) 772-3284
To receive Fort Drum career fair notices:
Maurice Mitchell, Transition Support Specialist
Phone: (315) 772-3237
Military Spouse Professional Network