Soon: TAP for the 21st Century
modernizes Transition Assistance Program
As America draws down its troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, more service
members than ever will make the military-to-civilian transition over the next
several years. So the timing couldn’t be better for the launch of a modernized
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) on Veterans Day.
between the U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Defense (DOD), Veterans Affairs
(VA) and Homeland Security (DHS), TAP was created 20 years ago to help service
members transition to civilian life. It hasn’t changed much in 20 years, but
the agencies are collaborating to bring the program into the 21st century. The
transformation will include a redesigned employment workshop and enhanced
“In the new
TAP, each person is going to have an individual transition plan,” said Ray Jefferson, assistant secretary for the U.S.
Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), who is
spearheading the TAP redesign. “So regardless if you are involved in the high
op-tempo of repeated demobilization, you’re going to have a transition plan so
that, when you come back from deployment, you’ll have a living tool that you
can revise, update and use to make course corrections as you grow and change as
growing to address the high unemployment rate of America’s youngest veterans. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate
Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and her fellow committee members in April
questioned Jefferson and other federal officials about the government’s effort
to help service members find jobs, including TAP.
“This program needs to be customized, it needs to be updated, and it
needs to be delivered in a way that is relevant and most importantly, accepted
by service members,” Murray said during the hearing.
couldn’t agree more. Shortly after he took over the VETS team in August 2009,
Jefferson took a close look at TAP. “After I did an assessment of the gap
between what’s current best practice and what we’re doing, I realized that we
need to completely transform and redesign the program.”
Reworking the Workshop
Jefferson and his team began working on an ambitious plan to transform
the DOL’s 2½-day employment workshop. They consulted experts like Tim
Butler, director of Career Development Programs at Harvard Business School, to
determine the components needed to build a world-class transition program.
Jefferson also consulted with the CEO of Singapore’s Workforce Development
Agency to learn about global best practices there and in other top countries in
work force development, such as Denmark, Norway and Australia.
The result is
an interactive, modern workshop that focuses on “experiential learning,” or
learning by doing. Although the new TAP program will continue to cover the
traditional topics like résumé writing, interviewing and dressing for success,
each service member will create their own Individual Transition Plan, or ITP,
and learn how to execute it. Interactive group activities will replace the
slide-and-lecture format. After transitioners finish the workshop, they’ll have
access to career coaching as they search for a job.
“They have a
tremendous amount to offer,” said Butler, who, has worked with many military
students as a senior fellow at Harvard Business School. “If you think about it,
what military personnel have been doing, often under extremely trying,
difficult and dangerous conditions, is extraordinary.”
1) Customization and segmentation
the workshop, service members will first complete an online assessment that determines
how ready they are for the job hunt. They will be placed in one of three
categories of employment readiness: high, moderate and entry-level. “You want
to get away from ‘one size fits all’ and be able to segment your customer
population and then customize what you offer so each person gets what they
need,” Jefferson said. There will also be three versions of the new content,
one for each level of readiness.
2) Best-practice content
content will include:
- Life and
- How to
transition from a military to civilian work environment
resiliency training: How to maintain a positive mental attitude, think more constructively and win the mental game
as you’re going through transition
- Storytelling: How to communicate
your value proposition to an employer. “Résumés get you interviews.
you jobs,” Jefferson said. “And one of
the key ways to impress interviewers
is to communicate that you can solve
problems and you want to be part
- How to create
- Peer support
3) Delivery system
TAP curriculum is presented through 185 PowerPoint slides. Transitioners in the
new TAP workshop will learn by doing. They’ll develop and rehearse a one-minute
elevator speech, practice interviewing and learn stress-reduction techniques.
“So when they’re doing mental resiliency training, they’ll be learning mental
exercises to strengthen their mind. They’ll also be learning stress reduction
techniques, such as breathing exercises,” Jefferson said. “They’ll be
developing their life and career plan – actually writing it out. They’re
practicing how to introduce themselves; how to go through the day in the
civilian context. How to communicate their value as a peak performer for
different kinds of employers and opportunities. They’re role playing. Those are
all examples of experiential learning.”
of Defense is redesigning the online component of TAP, said John Campbell, deputy undersecretary of defense
for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy.
aggressively leveraging technology and new media to shape the transformation of
the Transition Assistance Program into a blended career transition training
model that takes advantage of online and digital resources, virtual classrooms,
social media and other proprietary platforms to create a single Virtually
Enhanced Transition Assistance Program (VTAP) that compliments the traditional
‘brick and mortar’ TAP classes that most service members now attend,” he said.
The launch of
VTAP components began earlier this year with the limited release of an online
DOD Career Decision Toolkit and the TAP Virtual Learning Seminars, which give
service members and their families virtual resources they can tailor to their
own transition experiences. DOD also is modernizing TurboTap.org and will engage service members through social media
outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
“This is us
‘sticking our toes’ in the virtual water, so to speak,” Campbell said. “The
demand – without a formal launch – has been incredible, so we are ready to jump
in the deep end before the end of the year when we will support a major
component of DOL’s entire TAP transformation.”
The agency also is revisiting pre-separation counseling – the first
component of the TAP program. “The goal is to design a process and checklist
that addresses everything from transferrable skills, such as language skills,
to a service member’s individual transition goals,” Campbell said.
The VA, too,
is modernizing its half-day benefits presentation by developing an online
version that will give service members the option of completing the benefits
briefing electronically prior to discharge.
5) After-TAP Support
members complete the TAP employment workshop, they will be able to consult a
coach via telephone or computer during the job search.
6) Performance metrics
The new TAP
program will allow administrators to measure the effectiveness of the program
through feedback gathered at three “moments of truth,” as Jefferson calls them:
1) When the service member finishes the TAP workshop 2) During the job search
when they’re applying the techniques they learned, and 3) After they land a
civilian job. The feedback will allow administrators to fine-tune the program.
“Once this is rolled out, six months later, one year later, any program can
begin to become obsolete if you’re not constantly refreshing it, benchmarking
it, updating it,” Jefferson said. “And so that’s one of the things we’re going
to do with this to make sure that 20 years from now someone isn’t saying, the
VETS team did a great job back in 2011, but now it’s outdated again.”
One of the
biggest challenges service members face when they transition from the military
is translating their military skills and experience into language civilian
hiring managers can understand, both on the résumé and in the interview.
Jefferson said the new TAP will teach transitioners not to rely solely on
virtual skills translators, although these serve an important role.
going to have in the new TAP is a more effective way to teach service members
how to do the skills translation themselves,” Jefferson said. “Because an
online skills translator is going to allow someone to translate your résumé and
grant you an interview. Or, it will allow you to improve your résumé as a service
member to get an interview. But an online skills translator is not going to do
a thing once you’re in that room interviewing for the job.”
While many of the career transition techniques he teaches apply to both
civilians and military personnel, transitioning service members must sell their
military training and experience to civilian hiring managers in a way they can
“I think one
challenge that those who transition from the military face is that it’s not
always clear to civilian employers just what they’ve been doing in the military
and how that applies,” Butler said. “So it really is up to the military person
in transition to make that clear.”
TAP leaders across the services applaud the transformation of the program.
“I can tell
you that the Air Force is very excited about having an updated seminar. It is
long overdue and we have been assured that the updated seminar will be
interactive and engaging,” said Peggy R. Rayfield, chief of Transition Assistance
Operations for the U.S. Air Force. “We hope that the seminar will improve our
Airmens’ chances for rewarding employment but realize that it won’t get them
the job. The skills they learn must be put into practice. They have to come out
of the seminar and act on what they’ve learned, especially the networking
M. Herd is a retired
Special Forces colonel who now serves as director of the Army Career and Alumni
Program – the Army’s specialized version of TAP. He said the Army, too,
welcomes the new and improved TAP.
DOL TAP delivery system aligns with societal shifts in how information is
transmitted, processed and learned,” Herd said. “The DOL efforts support ACAP’s
transition to a choice based program designed to service the whole Army, focused
on our customer needs, through industry vendors. The choice based program
offers Soldiers multiple ways to learn the things ACAP, DOL or VA offer. The
virtual capabilities augment our existing world class face-to-face counselors
and provide greater flexibility and reach to better serve our Soldiers. I
applaud DOL’s efforts and we look forward to integrating their efforts with
troops returning from overseas, the demand for transition assistance will only
grow over the next couple of years. And with lawmakers pressing for the
government to do more to help veterans find jobs, the timing for the new and
improved TAP program couldn’t be better. Jefferson is confident it will be
ready this fall to meet the growing demands. “My goal is to make all of this
happen by Veteran’s Day,” he said. “We’re currently on track to do so.”
Did You Know?
million veterans have
gone through the TAP program since its inception in 1991
is a partnership between the U.S.
Departments of Labor, Defense, Veterans Affair and Homeland Security
Department of Labor’s 3,000-plus
One-Stop Career Centers helped more than 1.8 million veterans in the last
program year. To find the nearest center near you, visit www.servicelocator.org
has four components:
Transition Assistance Program (VA & DOD)