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Veterans training program expands

By SHERYL JEAN | The Dallas Morning News (Tribune News Service) | Published: June 25, 2015

Soldier Albert Cruz doesn’t leave the U.S. Army until October, but he’s already preparing for the next phase of his life.

He’s in a Warriors4Wireless training program to learn how to dangle from telecommunications towers more than 100 feet in the air.

“I’m in the Signal Corps, so it’s a good transition for me,” said Cruz, who is based at Fort Hood. He wore a hard hat and harness Wednesday as he climbed up 15-foot towers inside a Carrollton company as part of his telecom tower technician training.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced a new partnership Wednesday with Warriors4Wireless to expand its training program for wireless technicians as 250,000 soldiers leave the military each year and need help re-entering the civilian world. So far, the 2-year-old nonprofit organization has trained and placed more than 500 veterans in jobs, and it plans to do the same for up to 1,500 more by year’s end.

“The challenge for us is how do we find 250,000 jobs each year,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald said Wednesday in Carrollton. “The relationship enables us to make sure we bring all available programs of the federal government [and state government] to Warriors4Wireless.”

Warriors4Wireless president Kelley Dunne said military members may not realize they have the necessary know-how and experience to help companies repurpose certain telecom bands to mobile frequencies and operate drones for telecom tower inspections.

It makes sense to focus on information technology in North Texas, one of three Warriors4Wireless training sites nationwide, because of the many tech and telecom companies here, McDonald said. Also, North Texas “is getting a disproportionately large number of veterans” because of the state’s many military bases, its robust economy, lack of state income taxes and other factors, he said.

McDonald led a discussion with representatives of 18 IT employers and organizations in the Dallas area to discuss best practices for recruiting, training and supporting veterans in the workforce.

Robert Nicholson, chief administrative officer of NPower and a retired military member, noted that many veterans are skilled, but they need help with “soft skills” such as résumé writing and interview techniques.

David Hamilton of America’s Future Series organization said there needs to be a one-stop shop for vets or active service members for on-the-job training and career mapping.

Mark Bibb, head of U.S. talent acquisition for Huawei Technologies, noted that it’s difficult for military members to “show” their experience if they don’t have a college degree or civilian work experience.

For Cruz, the next step is to take his training outside to a real telecom tower. “I’m not afraid of heights,” he said.

Follow Sheryl Jean on Twitter at @SJeanDallas.

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