September 12, 2014, Washington, DC – Each year, more than 250,000 Servicemembers take off their uniform for the last time. And for those transitioning Veterans, among the first questions they ask is: What’s next?
To help answer the “what’s next” question, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is introducing a plan to incorporate Accelerated Learning Programs (ALP) as a way to bridge the gap between Veterans’ separation from service and successful civilian employment outcomes. In general, ALP learning is a non-traditional form of education that employs, and incorporates, varied learning styles. Individuals pursue intensive or self-paced learning in curricula that focus on developing career and industry skills. The ALP form of learning takes advantage of technologies, blended learning environments and innovative curricula that support the President’s priority to ensure that America’s Veterans find meaningful civilian employment.
“We must do all that we can to make sure our Veterans who were ready for war are also ready for life outside the military,” said VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, who participated today in a joint VA and White House roundtable discussion on ALP, as part of the White House Skills and Demand-Driven Training Initiative. “We talk a lot about how hiring Veterans is the right thing to do. The fact is hiring Veterans is the smart thing to do, and we must do all that we can to support them.”
Today’s roundtable discussion brought together key government agencies, education entrepreneurs and thought leaders, social impact subject matter experts and private sector employers to discuss the potential benefits of ALPs. Preliminary research by VA which focused on information technology (IT) training as an in-demand, high-growth industry, suggests that accelerated learning could provide a viable alternative to traditional education that may yield competitive job skills and employment opportunities for some Veterans. VA is developing a strategy to leverage accelerated learning and test its effectiveness for Veterans in projects over the next two years, targeting communities where VA can best support Veterans and transitioning Servicemembers.
Next steps include additional research and evaluation of these non-traditional modes of education. Evaluation of ALP performance requires a baseline to understand Veterans as they enter a program, their current employment status, and the types of jobs they qualify for prior to ALP completion. Capturing this information requires partnerships between employers and ALP providers, along with participation of Veterans in pre- and post-program data collection. VA will continue to work with education innovators and employers to share leading practices and define the economic outcomes that indicate long-term success for Veteran and transitioning Servicemember participants.