Training Helps Veterans Get Skills Needed For In-Demand Jobs

What do we owe the military women and men who sacrifice so much to keep us safe at home - besides our most profound thanks?

At the very least, we owe them the chance to find jobs that are satisfying and rewarding, not just monetarily but emotionally as well.

And we owe them access to New Jersey's institutions of higher learning, so they can qualify for those jobs.

A bill working its way through the state Legislature would establish an annual grant program to recognize our public colleges and universities that offer a wide variety of programs and services to veterans.

Working through the "Troops to College Grant Program" established in 2009, the initiative would target up to three such institutions to receive grants of $150,000 each to step up their efforts, in essence taking their services to the next level.

Sponsored by Senators Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden and Gloucester) and Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), the measure would allow veterans to chose a school that offers a culture friendly to vets and an academic program most likely to allow them to excel in their chosen fields.

The bill instructs the state's Secretary of Higher Education, working with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, to select schools based on a variety of criteria.

Among other things, these would include the number of scholarships offered to veterans, the graduation rates of vets, the amount of funds dedicated to supporting vets, and the institution's policy regarding waiving application fees to veterans.

To their great credit, the state's colleges and universities have made strides in these areas over the past decade or so.

The College of New Jersey and Rutgers University regularly win high grades in this arena, as do Stockton and Monmouth universities.

To get the most out of the higher education experience, veterans look for faculty and staff members who recognize their needs. They look for affordability; mental and physical health services; clubs or activities geared specifically to them, and the flexibility provided by online courses or short-term certification programs.

The Singleton-Cruz-Perez bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this year and is now before the Assembly Military Affairs Committee. It aims to make the transition from military duty to a civilian environment as seamless as possible.

"Because they have given so much of themselves, I believe it is ... our obligation to offer them a bridge across the waters they cross once they re-enter civilian life," Singleton wrote in a newsletter to constituents.

This Veterans Day, let's pledge not only to thank our veterans for their service, but also to redouble our efforts to assure them and their families a better future.

Original Article