Most Kentuckians are aware of our two major military installations, Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, but it is possible that some may not realize the multiple benefits these installations provide our state.
For that reason, the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs has as its vision to ensure Kentucky achieves its full potential in supporting and partnering with our military while creating enduring economic opportunity for the commonwealth.
KCMA’s mission is broad and comprehensive. It addresses all matters of military significance by advising and nesting efforts with key stakeholders, protecting and growing our military installations (which have a $12 Billion economic impact to the state) and expanding Kentucky’s defense related industry. In addition, KCMA is focused on improving the quality of life for our service members, veterans, and their families.
As Kentucky’s economy grows, its labor resource will need to grow with it. Businesses – such as Amazon’s $1.5 billion expansion in northern Kentucky – choose to locate in areas with skilled labor pools. Through our military installations, the commonwealth has a ready-made stream of highly-motivated, skilled labor.
Fort Campbell in Christian County and Fort Knox in Hardin County are home to thousands of military personnel who are receiving high-quality training in a vast number of disciplines that can translate to valuable skills for civilian employers. Former service members are strong in what human resources professionals call “soft skills.” They know the importance of being on time, they know the value of a “team first” mentality and can function as part of a larger unit to achieve goals. These skills, combined with specialized training make them an attractive commodity for employment.
However, a large number end up leaving the state to embark on their civilian life. Every month, more than 450 individuals who have completed their obligation to military service, attrition out of the military and into civilian life.
What can Kentucky do to encourage more veterans to make this their “Old Kentucky Home”?
One area where states and municipalities can help is closing a perceived gap between military training and civilian or industrial certifications.
Katie Lopez, Director of Military and Government affairs at the Christian County Chamber of Commerce said “that in the realm of human resources, the military and civilian worlds speak the same language, but often have different dialects. In some cases, the terminology that the military uses to describe a skill-set is different than in the civilian world, even though the skills themselves may translate quite well.”
While it may take extra effort on the part of HR officials to translate the military dialect, employers are getting something extra when they hire former military personnel. And skills learned in the military, such as electronics or instrumentation, will need only minor enhancements to be viable in civilian industries.
Government entities can be a liaison between the private sector and departing veterans to ensure open communication and help translate military skills into industrial certifications. The government can also be a liaison between existing military programs, like the “Soldier for Life” Transition Assistance Program that teaches outgoing soldiers everything from interviewing to job search skills. Finally, the continued expansion of public/private partnerships in workforce development can provide veterans with a fast track if they need to supplement their military skills to become viable industrial employees.
When men and women in the military become Kentuckians, everyone in the Commonwealth of Kentucky benefit.
The Governor’s Commission on Military Affairs is committed to ushering in the time when they can influence the vast majority of veterans to make their homes in Kentucky.
Colonel Blaine Hedges is executive director of Kentucky’s Commission on Military Affairs.