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G.I. JOBS VIRTUAL JOB FAIR   I   SEPTEMBER 28TH

Transforming TAP

[fullwidth background_color=”” background_image=”” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”20″ padding_left=”” padding_right=”” hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” menu_anchor=”” class=”” id=””][one_full last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]It’s been almost a year since the Department of Defense launched the Military Life Cycle transition preparation model (MLC TP) as part of the transformation of the Transition Assistance Program. Under the Military Life Cycle, service members start preparing for their military-to-civilian transition at the BEGINNING of their military career rather than the end. Until October 2015, the transition process was typically initiated during the last year of active duty. Today new boots start preparing for transition at their first permanent duty station. They sign up for their VA eBenefits, learn how to prepare a budget, and get advice on how best to use the education benefits they’re entitled to. That preparation continues throughout their entire military career – whether it lasts two years or 20.

That’s a huge change, and Dr. Susan Kelly has been at the tip of the proverbial spear in overseeing the MLC TP and Transition GPS, the revamped modular curriculum rolled out in 2014 that prepares exiting service members for civilian life. Kelly is the director of the Transition to Veterans Program Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). We recently talked to her about the implementation of the MLC TP and the progress of Transition GPS.

 

It’s been nearly one year since MLC was implemented. How’s it going so far?

Kelly: I think it’s going well. We learned a lot and we can see where the services are looking at modules of the Transition GPS and recognizing value and expanding on the instruction. For instance, in our Accessing Higher Education track, the services opted to take that particular curriculum and condense it so we could help service members discern good choices of colleges and universities before they even use Tuition Assistance during their military careers. The services see not only the need to train military members at the end of their military careers, but also help them choose universities and colleges very wisely before they put that funding to use while they’re still active duty.

The services are also looking at the 12-month post-separation budget module and how that fits with the entire financial readiness initiative of our service members across their Military Life Cycle. And, in fact, we’ve learned that the 12-month post-separation budget frequently turns out to be a retention tool that not only prepares service members to transition to civilian life, but also helps them understand the value of the total military compensation package that they receive, all the way from housing to health care and subsidized child care. So there are pieces of the Transition GPS curriculum that are easily being integrated into processes across the Military Life Cycle.

 

What has been the biggest challenge so far in implementing the Military Life Cycle?

Kelly: We are waiting for the services to report on how they have embedded the new commander responsibilities of the redesigned Transition Assistance Program into their everyday responsibilities, from verifying that service members have met Career Readiness Standards during Capstone, but also taking on that role of asking their service members, “What’s your exit strategy?” or “How are you aligning your military experience and training to your long-term civilian career goals?” That’s the one piece we are still working on. It is happening. But as you know, getting that embedded into the culture takes a while – it’s a challenge. But the services are getting there.[/fusion_text][/one_full][/fullwidth][fullwidth background_color=”” background_image=”” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”20″ padding_left=”” padding_right=”” hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” menu_anchor=”” class=”” id=””][two_third last=”no” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]Are they putting that into commanders’ service records?

Kelly: That’s been a consideration by the services – it differs from one service to the next. That action would be a desired outcome for a culture change, but we are not tracking it. Rather, we are tracking responses to questions we inserted in the Status of Forces Survey, including: Are you feeling supported by your peers in preparing for transition? How supported do you feel by your commanders, or your chain of command, as you prepare for transition?

 

At what point are these questions presented to them?

Kelly: They are part of the Status of Forces Survey that the Defense Management Data Center conducts on an annual basis. Those questions about transition are embedded in the whole block of questions about military careers, retention, recruiting, etcetera. But that’s a good question because the Status of Forces Survey is only done on an annual basis. So we’ve also embedded those same kinds of questions into the anonymous participant assessment that service members complete once they participate in the Transition GPS curriculum. We just embedded those questions so we could get a sensing – a timelier sensing – about the level of change, and we’re looking at that data on a quarterly basis.

[/fusion_text][/two_third][one_third last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][/one_third][/fullwidth][fullwidth background_color=”” background_image=”” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”20″ padding_left=”” padding_right=”” hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” menu_anchor=”” class=”” id=””][one_full last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]Do you report the results in any public forum?

Kelly: We report (Transition GPS) participant assessments to the service TAP managers, as well as to our interagency partners. I’m delighted to tell you we have over 80 percent of those respondents saying that the content of the curriculum is relevant to their needs to help them transition, that they’re going to use the information during their transition, that it improved their confidence in planning for transition, and, probably most important to me, is that they know where the resources are that they want to use both before and after they separate from active duty. And that was a pillar of the redesigned TAP, to build those bridges from DoD – from the services – to the Department of Labor, Veterans Affairs and our other interagency partners. So that’s a key one for me.

 

What kind of feedback are you getting from commanders at the unit level about the MLC TP?

Kelly: Initially we had thought about how we were going to give our service members time to attend Transition GPS. But we seem to have overcome that, for the most part. I can tell you about one of the indicators for command support. The Army – our largest service – developed a skill bridge training program they call Career Skills Program. The number of programs the Army is executing – those skill bridge programs – has jumped in 2015 to 44 industries at 11 of the Army forts, and their goal for 2016 is 91 industries at 21 of their Army sites. So clearly commanders are starting to embrace the need for their service members to be prepared for transition. And I think it’s just a matter of education. Commanders are keenly aware that the well-being of their service members is a major responsibility for them.

 

What role does the TAP Interagency Executive Council play in making course adjustments?

Kelly: The course adjustments in the Transition GPS are built into the program evaluation strategy reported to the Office of Management and Budget every year. That strategy requires a participant assessment, the continuous feedback from those participant assessments, as well as the oversight committees within DOL, VA and their stakeholders, and looking at the curriculum and modifying that curriculum on a regular basis. And that’s easy to say when we’re talking about the GPS system, but what that means is an annual recommitment of resources because each agency has to revise its curriculum, retrain facilitators, and change the material that is made available to the service members. So while we’re saying we “modify” the GPS on an annual basis, it’s also a resource commitment to do that. And all of our partners are stepping up to that each and every year.

But I can tell you also, the partnership hasn’t resulted in just the specific curriculum review. There are also processes and policies that have changed because of this collaboration. One of the best examples I can give you is the Department of Labor redefining dislocated workers. Now our transitioning service members, when they are within six months of their separation date, can go to the American Job Centers anywhere in the country and start working with the staff. They get priority services to be assessed, to be engaged in training, apprenticeship programs, as well as job market research and job placement. Additionally, DOL added military spouses, who can also avail themselves to those services in the Department of Labor, not only as spouses of transitioning service members, but also anytime spouses PCS and move from one military assignment to the next. That is a really big help for our spouses and our transitioning service members – to not have to wait until the end. They can get to those services six months before they separate.

Additionally, we’re focusing even more on training and apprenticeships and enrolling our transitioning service members and veterans into those training opportunities, whether they be long term or short term. Some big, big changes. And I think that has been an unintended consequence, but a very good consequence, of the collaboration that’s been developed across the federal agencies.

 

Are there particular components of the Military Life Cycle that are being embraced more enthusiastically by service members than others?

Kelly: Well, I gave you an example of how the Accessing Higher Education has been adapted for use across the Military Life Cycle. That’s a very helpful module. But I’ll also tell you that our service members are eager to attend the VA benefits briefings so they know about their benefits not only as they’re separating but throughout their careers. The Department of Labor Employment Workshop is also highly valued. We get a lot of positive feedback through the participant assessments.

 

Talk a little bit about the Individual Development Plan. What impact do you think that is having on service members who are documenting things relevant to their transition so early in their career?

Kelly: That’s a really good question. We’re not actually tracking IDPs. Those are very specific to each one of the services. What we have done is create the standardized Individual Transition Plan and provided that to the services. This year, we looked at the critical components of that ITP, and instead of just having a standardized form we’re letting the services adapt the mandatory core pieces of the ITP to match up with their individual IDPs. But those IDPs are very specific to each one of the services and are in their military personnel processes.

 

The Military Life Cycle represents a sea change in how the military thinks about and views transition. What kind of push-back have you gotten from the commanders, and how are you addressing it?

Kelly: It was a process of education, as I said earlier. But one of the things we did is provide the feedback from the participant assessments at the installation level. And that was a change for us. We were originally just providing aggregate data. But now the installation commanders can see what the participants are saying about the facilitators on their installation for all the modules. They are able to see the feedback from the service members about the facilities, and they’re also able to see the feedback on each one of the modules. Very soon, since we’ve given the participant assessments a little modification by embedding the questions about support – peer support, commander support, etcetera – the installation commanders will also be able to receive that feedback. So I think it’s a matter of education and letting the commanders know what their new responsibilities are, and also showing them what their service members are saying about that transition support, as well as monitoring the VOW compliance and Career Readiness Standards for each service, and providing that feedback to the services.

 

With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently in planning and implementing the Military Life Cycle?

Kelly: I would have fought harder for more resources for the services and their staff. And not just within the TAP arena, but also the other pieces that Military Life Cycle transition preparation impacts – like the education offices.

 

Is there anything you’d like to add that we didn’t cover?

Kelly: If you look at where we came from and where we are now … wow! I’ve heard from Guardsmen and Reservists who deployed numerous times and went through the program early after 9/11 and then after 2014. They say the difference is night and day. And I have senior NCOs telling me that this redesigned TAP is the best thing they’ve seen for their service members in their career. And that is just overwhelmingly good feedback. And I give incredible credit to our partners, who stepped up and committed and have not relented in their commitment. In fact, they keep improving. Probably every quarter there’s an improvement to the program. And I give great credit to the service TAP managers who have steered this through and made it happen at over 206 sites across the globe. A few words cannot describe how widespread that change is. And I give them great credit. It’s been with their blood, sweat and tears. And I thank them for that.[/fusion_text][/one_full][/fullwidth]

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