Junction City, Kansas, is one of the most diverse cities in the state, and much of that diversity is due to nearby Fort Riley. It’s direct from Junction City Mayor Jeff Underhill. Underhill is in his second year as mayor and is working on an ambitious plan to maintain that diversity in his hometown.
His plan is a unique public-private partnership that will train soldiers towards the end of their enlistment for needed jobs in the region and then place them in those jobs. It is an innovative program, which could be adaptable to the rest of the United States.
Underhill himself is not a veteran, but he comes from a military family. As mayor, he recognizes the importance not only of the economic impact of the local military base, but also of the potential power of the people who work there, even when they leave the service.
âEach year, approximately 2,000 troops leave the military at Fort Riley,â Underhill told Military.com. âWe only keep about 8% here. If we could get that figure up to 25%, that would be great for our community as a whole. If we can provide good jobs for these veterans and military families, Fort Riley will ultimately become a destination for those preparing to make the transition. And we want these people here.
It’s called Junction for Military / Civilian Innovation (JMCI), and it uses a career counseling platform built by AstrumU, a data services company. The software first identifies soldiers who are approaching their separation date, around 18 months. Soldiers can then answer questionnaires about themselves in a number of areas, including their skills, work history, and even hobbies.
The idea is to find fulfilling work in the region for soldiers while providing employers with skilled people to meet their needs. Soldiers will be trained in the area that matches their preferences and a local need (if they wish; the program is not mandatory) at no cost. When they leave the service, they will have gainful employment that is stimulating and benefits the local community.
It is all based on the idea of ââ’skill building’ or ‘re-qualification’, providing education, training and certification in an area that is suitable for an employee, without the expense or time spent at a traditional university of two. or four years. It’s the latest trend among America’s biggest employers, and it works for veterans leaving the military.
JMCI partners with schools such as Kansas State Polytechnic and community colleges to provide training and work placements from local and national companies including T-Mobile, P1 Group and Evergy, to name a few- one.
âUltimately, the goal is to promote Junction City and develop Junction City,â said the mayor. âI hope we can retain some of these people here who could work for these companies. However, the bigger picture helps the soldiers in transition, that way people would want to come here. “
For soldiers, the program is so new that many may not know it exists. It has been in the works for two years and it will take another 12 months to be fully implemented. This is not a problem for AstrumU. The program will approach the soldiers when the time comes. If the soldier is interested, he can start the process 18 months before leaving the military.
Better yet, the military and AstrumU are using the program as a beta test to determine if it can be scaled army-wide.
âSelfishly, our goal is to get people to stay in Junction City,â Underhill said. “But the big picture is if we can help people make the transition from the entire military to high paying jobs, then that’s a great victory too.”
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