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Virginia Program Helps Veterans Transition to Civilian Jobs

The College of William and Mary's business school is establishing a new veterans center as part of an initiative to help ex-military folks transition into the workforce. (Adobe stock)
The College of William and Mary's business school is establishing a new veterans center as part of an initiative to help ex-military folks transition into the workforce. (Adobe stock)
October 7, 2020

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- With so many people out of work because of pandemic-related layoffs, a new Virginia college program will provide support and services for veterans shifting from active-duty service to civilian workplaces.

William and Mary's Veteran-to-Executive Transition program offers military veterans networking and mentorship opportunities. It also helps them build professional skills and cope with cultural challenges.

Charlie Foster, director of the school's Office of Student Veteran Engagement, said it's tempting to discount the struggles of former military folks during COVID-19, since some people think veterans are used to overcoming obstacles in the military.

"We want to be able to make sure that they stay connected to the institution, stay connected to one another," Foster explained. "And sometimes, because they're in a place where they're not from because the military kind of transplanted them, we want to be here to be friendly faces, even if it's on Zoom."

With William and Mary located in Hampton Roads, Va., an area with the highest concentration of military employees outside the Pentagon, Foster predicted the program will have a wide reach.

It's estimated that about 13,000 service members in the region leave the military every year.

The program's donor said she wanted to make a difference in the lives of people who sacrifice so much to the nation, according to Foster. He added the program helps many military veterans who face a sort of "culture shock" when they leave their posts and enter school.

"Student veterans sometimes arrive on a college campus and feel a little bit like outsiders, and that was certainly my experience when I was a student veteran," Foster related. "So, one thing we want to make sure is that they have a place to go, and my office is centrally located on campus to make sure that they don't feel marginalized."

Studies show many veterans don't attend colleges and universities that offer them specific programs to succeed.

Only one in 10 veterans using GI Bill benefits enrolls in a high-graduation-rate school. Meanwhile, about one in three using the benefit attends a for-profit college.


Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA