By Lisa Meiman
Many veterans transitioning into the civilian world face the same question: “What happens next?”
For some, including more than 30 percent of WAPA’s federal workforce and a number of contractors, what happens next is a position with the federal government.
Even that transition may not be easy; civilian workplaces lack the familiar military comradery; supervisors don’t “order,” they “request,” and those requests are often “the start of a negotiation.”
To help veterans transition into the workforce, Sierra Nevada hosted WAPA’s first Veterans Success Workshop in Folsom, California, April 4-5.
Around 40 veterans from across WAPA attended in person and via video teleconference to learn about the Department of Energy, the advantages of working for the federal government and how to access their veteran benefits.
“It was valuable. I enjoyed learning about service-related benefits,” said Public Utilities Specialist Maria Tyler, who is a Navy reservist. “I have done extensive research on my own, and here I could ask my questions to verify what I had found. It was also beneficial to learn from other’s questions.”
“I wish the military would give this kind of information at the transition assistance programs,” added Safety and Occupational Health Manager Matt Monroe, who is a former Marine. “My goal is to use this information to help other veterans get jobs in the federal government.”
The Department of Energy’s National Training Center began the Veterans Success Workshop in 2016. It has previously been offered to DOE Headquarters, Bonneville Power Administration and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
“I saw an advertisement for a workshop in a DOECast a couple of weeks after I started at WAPA last summer and was immediately interested,” said Public Utilities Specialist Jody Wootton, a Coast Guard reservist who organized the event. “I couldn’t attend that workshop so I started thinking about how we could bring the workshop to SN. Then it turned into a WAPA-wide event.”
The Veterans Success Workshop is designed to educate veterans about the mission, organization, history, culture, career progression and benefits of a civilian career at the DOE.
“We wanted to ensure veterans were properly integrated into the DOE workplace,” said National Training Center Project Manager Rudy Pino. “By bringing veterans more into our community, we can improve morale, retention, performance and sense of pride in the DOE.”
There is a human capital element behind the initiative as well. Within the next four years, more than 50 percent of the DOE workforce will be eligible to retire. At WAPA, more than 30 percent are already eligible. Due to hiring rules, it is likely a significant proportion of vacancies will be filled by veterans, who could make up nearly 45 percent of the DOE workforce within five years.
“My goal was to help make the transition easier from the military to the federal service,” explained Wootton. “I hope the other veterans took away an understanding of how DOE and WAPA operate. I’m grateful to have had this opportunity to help cultivate relationships and foster a veteran network within WAPA and other parts of DOE.”
National Training Center instructors will visit WAPA’s Electric Power Training Center to provide train-the-trainer sessions on the Veterans Success Workshop’s general and veteran-specific modules. In the future, these workshops, as well as DOE onboarding, could be provided by WAPA employees.
Around 40 veterans from across WAPA attended Sierra Nevada's Veterans Success Workshop to have their questions answered and
learn about transitioning to the civilian workforce. (Photo by Matt Monroe)