Veterans and companies that want to hire them gathered at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport recently for the South Carolina launch of Edge4Vets, a program aimed at helping people hone their military skills into civilian careers.
Tom Murphy, author and director of the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University, said he founded Edge4Vets after seeing a young soldier struggle through an awkward moment among civilians while traveling. He has partnered with Airport Council International to use airports across the country as sites to host workshops that put veterans together with potential employers.
“Fifteen hundred vets have taken the program since 2011 and a lot of them came back to us and told us it’s been life changing,” he said before leading the first work shop at GSP’s Conference Center. Murphy said the veterans’ military experience gives them the job skills they need to pursue a career, but often they have some difficulty transferring those skills from service to the civilian workplace.
“Think of Edge4Vets as a product or resource or a facilitating agent to help veterans translate their skills to a job that sets them on a career path,” he said.
“We want to help you find that job or career that will lead to the life that you want,” Murphy told the veterans at GSP. “That is our goal for you.”
Before he started Edge4Vets, Murphy saw plenty of opportunities for veterans, often through job fairs aimed at vets, but he said nothing was there to prepare them for the job fairs. He said what makes the program unique is bringing in potential employers on the front end to take part in the workshops, where they sit at tables alongside vets and help them identify their strengths and map out a plan for personal success.
Aside from the fact that his inspirational moment for Edge4Vets came when Ford witnessed a soldier dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder on an airplane, airports make sense because of the wide variety of jobs and careers they offer.
People think of pilots and flight attendants when they think of airport jobs, according to GSP human resources director Ashley Bruton, but airports are like small cities, with job opportunities that range from police and firefighters to retail to construction. Many of the people employed at airports work for other employers, a lot of them national or international employers.
About 1,500 people currently are badge holders to work within the GSP airport district, she said, and at least three of the airport’s employers last week processing new hires from the Edge4Vets meeting.
“When we were asked to be a pilot airport for the program, we were glad to get involved knowing all the opportunities,” she said.
Bruton said a lot of veterans are accustomed to thinking and functioning as part of a team, but sometimes to the point that they overlook the individual contributions they made to their military team or can make to the next one in civilian life. The workshops help them identify and promote their individual strengths.
“I feel like no matter where you are, you are part of a team and the workshop was designed to help them better articulate what they do. To sell themselves,” Bruton said. “It was a good way to marry the two segments (military and civilian) and help them meet in the middle because they do have a lot of skills that we here at the airport could use, or a lot of employers could use.”
A second Edge4Vets workshop is being planned for the fall, Bruton said, and it may be held at another of the state’s airports.
“This is our pilot program for the community and we hope that as we build our network of corporate partners, other organizations will get involved so that when employers in the future need an employee, they will think about Edge4Vets,” Murphy said.
According to the organization’s website, 80% of the veterans who go through the program find employment when they complete all of the steps.