Onward to Opportunity Program Launches at Washington State Service Member for Life Summit

September 22, 2015


Onward to Opportunity Program Launches at JLBM Transition Summit

Groundbreaking Veteran Employment Program is Unveiled to Military Leaders and Service Members at Transition Summit at JBLM

Schultz Family Foundation, IVMF, and Department of Defense lead public launch of Onward to Opportunity – a critical component of the military service life cycle, and program that will shift the way service members and their families transition from service to civilian employment in the coming years.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, (9/22/15) – Today at the Washington State Service Member for Life Transition Summit on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Schultz Family Foundation (SFF) and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University launched the 
Onward to Opportunity (O2O)
 program. This groundbreaking new initiative introduces in-demand, industry-validated training and curriculum on U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) installations to transitioning service members six months prior to the point of separation, as well as to all active-duty spouses, then links this population with the nation’s leading private sector companies. Announced this spring in conjunction with U.S. Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Ashton Carter, the program is the latest initiative of the foundation co-founded by Starbucks chairman and chief executive officer Howard Schultz and his wife Sheri Schultz.

The three-day Transition Summit, Sept. 22-24, will bring together military leaders across Joint Base Lewis-McChord to engage with leading companies, educational institutions, and veteran service organizations seeking to facilitate a successful transition to civilian employment. On Day 1 of the Summit, SFF and IVMF leadership will introduce the O2O program to senior leaders to articulate the value of training and preparing service members six months prior to separation. During the remaining two days of the Transition Summit, O2O representatives will explain to service members on base the program that empowers highly qualified transitioning service members and their families with the specific skills and training required to start civilian careers in growing industries. The program is offered at no cost to participants (no use of GI Bill benefits) and connects hiring employers to veteran talent that is prepared to meet current, real time labor needs.

O2O program execution begins with orientation sessions scheduled Friday, September 25th through Thursday, October 1st, followed by a combination of classroom and online training in the areas of customer service excellence and information technology, with an expected graduation to occur in December 2015. Graduates of the program will receive industry credentials and certifications associated with their field of study and will be matched with interview opportunities with industry partners.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) was selected as the launch site for the program due to its proven track record as an incubator for innovative transition programs and its continual commitment to the post-service success of the servicemen and women stationed there. For years, JBLM has led the military in demonstrating a culture of openness to new ideas, which have fostered positive employment outcomes for this community, and it leads the way for O2O, as IVMF and SFF plan considerable program expansion nationwide over the coming years.

“Our service members have tremendous talents needed by the private sector: leadership, determination, and commitment. O2O provides a clear way for businesses to tap into these talents before transition, and to train service members on the additional skills they require to be successful in the civilian workplace,” says Daniel Pitasky, Executive Director, Schultz Family Foundation. “This innovative effort will make our veterans, our businesses, and our communities stronger, and the Schultz Family Foundation is proud to play a leading role.”

Onward to Opportunity
 brings together the longstanding curriculum development and program delivery expertise of the IVMF; the breadth of knowledge, reach, and specialty in business and state engagement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative; the honed personal touch of service member coaching and mentoring of Hire Heroes USA; and the philanthropic resources of the Schultz Family Foundation.

“This collective impact approach toward employer engagement, curriculum development and delivery, and ultimate placement of service members and spouses in opportunities with our employer partners is something never before seen in the veterans’ space at this scope and scale,” shared Dr. J. Michael Haynie, Executive Director and Founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), and Vice Chancellor at Syracuse University. “This kind of employer-focused, skills-based training is truly the future as we take a more targeted approach toward workforce development and ultimately shift the way service members and their families transition from service in the coming years.”

Onward to Opportunity
 has secured the participation of some of America’s greatest companies to introduce private sector employment as the principle and key ingredient to a successful transition from military service. Accenture, American Express, AT&T, Cisco, La Quinta, Microsoft, Starbucks, Walmart and others are collaborating with O2O to take advantage of this military talent pipeline.

With IVMF designing curriculum and delivering training to transitioning service members and active-duty spouses, its partners will serve critical enabling functions which will amplify program success. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes will engage businesses in committing to interview participating service members, as well as provide best practices and proven resources for the initiative’s employer partners.

“Our nation’s military men and women possess tremendous skills when they leave the service, and the Chamber knows first-hand how much the private sector stands to benefit from those skills,” said Eric Eversole, vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of Hiring Our Heroes. “Onward to Opportunity makes this critical connection between employers and service members much earlier in the transition process, and Hiring Our Heroes is ready to supply best-in-class resources and best practices to these committed businesses.”

Hire Heroes USA will coach and mentor O2O participants through final preparations for placement with O2O companies, coordinating interviews and tailoring their coaching depending on the participant’s target industry and potential target employers. As a result, companies will see job seekers uniquely trained with a curriculum designed for their needs and prepared specifically for their hiring processes, and participants will be optimally positioned for success at the interview table. “Hire Heroes USA is proud to be among this team of industry experts, and we look forward to delivering our services to help set these military members and spouses up for success as they prepare for their civilian career,” added Brian Stann, CEO of Hire Heroes USA.

One of the greatest innovations of the collective approach to the design and delivery of 
Onward to Opportunity
 is the industry-validated curriculum, which lies at the heart of program success. Throughout the design of the program, industry partners such as Accenture, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Walmart have been intimately involved in the design, development, and review of curriculum for the program’s two training tracks – customer service excellence and information technology. The resulting O2O program seeks to build on the lessons learned from such efforts as the Microsoft Software Systems Academy (MSSA), and the Starbucks veterans and military spouses hiring initiative, which have both made significant impact in the space since their inception.

“We’re proud to continue setting an example of collaboration on major initiatives such as O2O, which go beyond the walls of individual corporations and focus resources to train and prepare our veterans for long-term careers in the technology industry,” added Chris Cortez, VP Military Affairs, Microsoft. “We’re hopeful that this introduction to a technology track will encourage and excite candidates to apply and join the MSSA, or other advanced programs like Cisco’s Networking Academy, on a national level.”

O2O plans to launch its program on five additional DoD installations by June 2016, with further planned expansion in subsequent years. To sign up or seek more information, visit onward2opportunity.com.

About the Schultz Family Foundation

The Schultz Family Foundation, established in 1996 by Howard and Sheri Schultz, creates pathways of opportunity for populations facing barriers to success. The Foundation invests in innovative solutions and partnerships that unlock people’s potential, and strengthen our businesses, our communities, and our nation. In March 2014, the Schultz Family Foundation launched Onward Veterans, a national initiative that empowers post-9/11and their families to successfully transition to civilian life. For more information about the Foundation and its work: schultzfamilyfoundation.org.

About the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)

The IVMF is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Through our focus on veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement, the institute provides in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community, captures best practices and serves as a forum to facilitate new partnerships and strong relationships between the individuals and organizations committed to making a difference for veterans and military families. Read more at vets.syr.edu.

About the US Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes

Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, launched in March 2011 as a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. Working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vast network of state and local chambers and strategic partners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, our goal is to create a movement across America in hundreds of communities where veterans and military families return every day. Read more at hiringourheroes.org.

About Hire Heroes USA

Hire Heroes USA has built a national reputation of excellence for helping veterans find jobs: now at the rate of more than 50 veterans confirmed hired every week. Thanks to the tax free contributions of generous donors and funders, our services are provided at no cost to the transitioning service member, veteran or spouse. Our team of former military and business professionals effectively trains veterans in the skills of self-marketing, then supports their career search until they find good jobs with great companies. The hallmark of our program is a personal approach where each veteran receives dedicated assistance from a highly-trained staff member in order to help the veteran overcome barriers to employment. Read more at hireheroesusa.org.