Fighting For You

How Michael Michaud, assistant secretary of labor for VETS, is helping you get hired.

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July 19, 2016

Fighting For You

Michael Michaud represented the 2nd Congressional District of Maine – a huge chunk of the state – from 2003 to 2015. As a congressman, Michaud was known for his work on behalf of America’s veterans. He served on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and made multiple trips overseas to visit troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today Michaud continues his fight for veterans. He was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training (VETS), a sub-agency of the Department of Labor, and was sworn in on Dec. 2, 2015. His mission is clear.

“Having seen what some of these service members and their families have gone through, we as a nation have got to do everything we can to make sure that when they come home and take off the uniform that they are taken care of in a proper way,” Michaud says. “And part of that is to make sure that they have the opportunity to continue to work, to provide for their families, to have a successful career.”

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Michaud grew up in the Katahdin Region of Maine and worked for years at the Great Northern Paper Company mill in East Millinocket, where he was a member of the United Steelworkers. He continued to work at the mill through 22 years of service in the Maine state Senate and House of Representatives.

We talked to Michaud about the goals he set for helping America’s veterans and their families find careers, and the progress he and his team are making.

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# of Servicemembers & Spouses
VETS has delivered the Employment Workshop to

When you took over as Assistant Secretary of Labor for VETS (ASVET), what were your top three goals?

My top three goals were, number one, to strengthen relationships. That’s not only with employees, but veterans service organizations, legislators, members of Congress, and in the states – state workforce agencies.

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The second is to strengthen the programs, whether at JVSG (Jobs for Veterans State Grants), the HVRP programs (Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program) and just how we do audits and try to streamline the process for the applications of the grants that we provide.

And the third overarching goal was to demonstrate the value of VETS. When you look at VETS, we do a lot of good things as far as getting service members, veterans and their spouses into jobs. And one of the problems I’ve seen with VETS is an identity problem – a lot of people think we’re in the Department of Veterans Affairs – even members of Congress who have jurisdiction over us. So it’s to demonstrate the value of VETS and everything we have to offer here at the department.

 

Have those goals changed since you took office?

Well, actually the goals have not changed. After I was appointed to this position as the ASVET, I came on board with a vision to improve and enhance the quality of our resources to service members, veterans and their families, and that agenda is ongoing and it will not change. Those are very broad goals, and there’s always ways we can keep on enhancing our relationships and programs and demonstrating the value
of VETS.

 

And how’s that going?

It is going extremely well. There was actually a bill to move DOL VETS over to the VA – that was pulled from the House floor. We’ve got veterans service organizations that have been participating in our monthly coffees. They realize the value of VETS. They really didn’t understand all the stuff that we’re doing, not only at VETS but also within our DOL interagency partners with ETA (Employment & Training Administration) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So I think it’s going extremely well, and we’re going to just keep focusing on those three broad goals.

My advice to veterans is it’s never too early to start thinking about the transition. Start thinking about what they want to do when they end their military service, and that goes right back to the Military Life Cycle.
Michael Michaud

When you joined VETS, you pledged to listen to veterans and transitioning service members to understand what challenges they face when looking for employment. What have they told you about the challenges they face?

Well, one of the biggest challenges I’ve heard while traveling around the country in attending several TAP classes, transition summits and hiring fairs is the navigation of all the different websites, programs and initiatives out there for them. As you can imagine, at times veterans and transitioning service members and their families can feel a bit overwhelmed with the vast amount of information floating around online, and sometimes the information readily available might not be the most accurate and relevant information for them at this stage of transition.

Another challenge is the translation of the veterans and transitioning service members’ military credentials to civilian-recognized certification. We are tirelessly working on promoting our resources that will help facilitate translating military to civilian credentials and certification requirements to help prepare them for a long and rewarding civilian career.

That is a key reason that we focused all of our federal and state online resources to one centralized location at Veterans.gov. And that really has been a phenomenal website, and the states really like it because all of the states and territories are actually part of that website.

As you mentioned earlier, there are a lot of online resources for veterans and transitioning service members. What differentiates Veterans.gov from the others, and how are you getting word out?

As I mentioned in my previous comments, yeah, there are a lot of other sites out there but Veterans.gov is the go-to site for the services that can actually help them connect to civilian employment. And one of the things that I made very clear to staff is that I don’t want to recreate the wheel. Just utilize what’s currently out there and enhance upon that. And as far as how we get the message out, everywhere I go I continue to talk about Veterans.gov and that Veterans.gov is a website that can actually connect the individual service member or family to a person in the community. A lot of these folks are going back to their original community, or if they want to start in a new community, it connects them with a person in that community. And that’s what’s unique about Veterans.gov, and the initial feedback we’re getting has been extremely positive, which I’m very pleased to hear from staff.

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So there’s a link on Veterans.gov where they can find the nearest American Job Center in the community they’re heading to?

Absolutely. Actually, there’s a map of the United States, and wherever they’re interested in going they can hit on that individual state and it will link them right in to the community they want to go if there’s an American Job Center, or to the nearest American Job Center in that community.

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DOL VETS develops and administers the employment workshop during Transition GPS. How would you characterize the success of the redesigned curriculum since it rolled out in 2013?

Since the redesign, VETS has delivered the employment workshop to over 600,000 transitioning service members and spouses – that’s important to highlight: Spouses are able attend if space is available for these workshops. The workshops received very high marks in the Transition GPS survey that DoD does. We are committed, along with the other TAP partner agencies, to keep our curriculum up to date and relevant and regularly review the curriculum as it relates to the VETS three-day workshop.

I might also add that in fiscal year 2015, VETS conducted a thorough review of the curriculum with a task order through the National Veterans Training Institute. The NVTI conducted site visits at six military installations to review the current curriculum in action. They also gathered input from a variety of stakeholders. We made two primary improvements in the curriculum from that feedback. First of all, there was too much material without adequate time to cover it all, and it was confusing and less than helpful content in the participant guide in the workshop. These changes were made to the curriculum to tighten the focus of the three-day workshop to core areas. And those core areas are to develop the execution in a job search plan, planning for success in a civilian work environment. The third one was creating résumés, cover letters and self-marketing material. And the fourth was engaging in successful interviews and networking conversations.

 

BLS statistics show continued improvement in the veteran unemployment rate, especially with the youngest veterans. To what do you attribute this positive trend?

DOLVETs is fully committed to supporting veterans of all ages through the collective and sustained efforts and partnerships of many public and private organizations. The employment situation of veterans continues to improve, and veterans’ unemployment rates are trending downward. Since January of 2011 to May of 2016, the unemployment rate for veterans has fallen from 9.9 percent to 3.4 percent, lower than the unemployment rate of 4.7 percent in May of 2016 for the civilian population. So everything is going in the right direction. Even though the overall veterans unemployment rate continues to trend lower, we will continue to provide support as long as we are still in operation to service veterans needs’ and finding meaningful civilian employment. So that’s our goal.

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What do you hope to accomplish in your remaining time in office?

What I hope to accomplish during the remaining time that I have left, not knowing what that’s going to be, is to continue to push forward with my three-point vision in order to set the Department of Labor VETS up for success in both the short and long term, ensuring that DOL VETS continues to partner with a strong cohesive relationship with all levels of governmental departments and agencies, public and private organizations, businesses – both large and small – non-profit organizations, institutions of higher learning for a concerted effort to bring the best possible employment opportunities available to our clients, which are veterans, transitioning service members and their families, and to keep the veterans unemployment rate on that downward trend.

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What advice would you offer to service members preparing to transition from the military?

My advice to them is it’s never too early to start thinking about the transition. Start thinking about what they want to do when they end their military service, and that goes right back to the Military Life Cycle. I’d encourage them to utilize the American Job Centers, and Veterans.gov before going out and paying for employment search services. All of our services at Department of Labor VETS and what they offer at the American Job Centers are free of charge, and the sooner that they can start thinking about that transition early on in their Military Life Cycle, the better off they will be at the end.

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Do you have anything you would like to add?

It’s our mission at the Department of Labor VETS to do everything we can to help service members, veterans and their families get into a job, a career, and we’re going to do everything we can to continue that effort. We have a very dedicated staff here at the Department of Labor VETS. They definitely have shown the value of the work that we can do collectively working with other agencies, non-profits and businesses, and we’re just going to continue doing that to help those who have worn the uniform and are wearing the uniform.
And that’s our main mission here at the Department of Labor VETS, and we’re going to continue to focus on that mission, because we owe so much to those who have served. And that’s why I’m very glad to have been nominated for this position. I will continue to do whatever I can however long I’m left as the ASVET.

2017-08-24T15:18:28+00:00

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