LANSING, Mich. – A new public-private initiative aims to reduce unemployment and underemployment among Michigan National Guard and Reserve members by connecting them with career-oriented jobs that fit their specific skillsets and qualifications.
Tim Loney, deputy director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA), signed a memorandum of agreement Thursday with Lt. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), to officially launch the Guard Reserve Interview Promise (GRIP) as a pilot program.
Under GRIP, military-friendly employers promise to interview Guard/Reserve members whose military occupational qualifications meet appropriate job opening classifications as determined by a workforce assessment with the employer.
The one-year pilot will target the Michigan National Guard, which has about 11,000 members, before expanding to the Reserves. About 10 employers will participate in the pilot, including Comerica Inc., with the MVAA’s full list of more than 270 Veteran-Friendly Employers expected to participate eventually.
“Our National Guard members and Reservists have sometimes struggled with finding a good job that suits their considerable skills and talents,” Loney said. “The GRIP program addresses this problem head-on by establishing a talent pipeline between the Guard/Reserve and our Veteran-Friendly Employers.”
The MVAA is working with employers on the workplace assessments, determining which job openings match up with military occupations. At any one time, Comerica, for example, may have dozens of openings for loan officers and loan processors across the state, and these jobs may line up well with an Army financial manager (36A) or financial technician (36B) or even a human resources specialist (42A), which has a strong customer service focus.
In the past, some employers were hesitant to hire or retain National Guard members because of their two-week summer training commitment and possibility of deployment overseas, forcing these patriots to find less than optimal work outside their chosen civilian career path. But the MVAA and other veteran-friendly organizations have helped turn this problem around by educating employers on the value veterans bring through their work ethic, leadership, team-player mentality and ability to learn new things. The unemployment rate for veterans in Michigan fell from 10.6 percent in 2013 to 3.6 percent in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many companies today are having trouble finding enough skilled workers. The GRIP program can help fill this demand by providing employers with a valuable source of quality talent in National Guard and Reserve members.
Vadnais said the program also serves as a recruiting and retention tool for National Guard and Reserve units by providing direct access to qualified employers.
“The number one reason people leave the National Guard is for employment purposes – they relocate to take a job out of state, for example,” Vadnais said. “The Guard is a part-time force, and that makes civilian employment extremely important to us. Having the ability to offer our people access to good civilian jobs benefits all parties – the service member, the employer and the National Guard and Reserves.”