CSU to launch program for war veterans

The Cal State University will soon begin a new program to train hundreds of veterans as electricians, plumbers and other skilled trade positions in time to replace current laborers who plan to leave the university.

The Troops to Trade program will place veterans as apprentices to skilled laborers in the CSU, where they will learn the ins and outs of the trades they study, according to Physical Plant Program Manager Shawn Holland. He said the program’s ultimate goal is to hire veterans as full-time employees after current workers retire.

“When we graduate an apprentice, we have a higher likelihood of employing them with the CSU,” Holland said.

Cal State Long Beach is one of nine CSU campuses participating in the pilot program, along with Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Northridge and Cal State Channel Islands. The program is currently limited to select campuses in Southern California, though Holland said he is confident it will spread to most CSU campuses in time.

Holland runs and manages Troops to Trade, and he said the program aims to address the problems of an “aging work force” that is on the verge of mass-retirement.

“We found that a bubble is coming,” Holland said. “Many are reaching retirement age. That poses a problem.”

More than 50 percent of current CSU skilled trade workers will retire in the next five to seven years, according to a CSU Board of Trustees document.

“Departures in these numbers,” the document said, “will create a serious deficiency of institutional knowledge for the campuses’ infrastructure maintenance and operational needs.”

Preserving the institutional knowledge learned through on-the-job experience is important, according to Holland. He said that skilled laborers who have spent their careers learning the specifics of each campus should pass this knowledge on, and that veterans are especially capable of quickly acquiring that knowledge.

“Most people entering the workforce couldn’t become a skilled journeyman in a short amount of time,” Holland said. “But if we can take their skills and retrain them a little, they could.”

According to Holland, the benefits of the Troops to Trade program are two-fold. The CSU accesses a work force capable of replacing skilled laborers, and veterans’ G.I. Bill benefits will offset the cost of training them, saving both the CSU and the veterans money.

Holland also said that for veterans not interested in an academic-based, four-year degree, Troops to Trade serves as a viable alternative.

The program is late in its planning phases, which started a year and a half ago, and Holland said he is eager to see its results.

“There are a few hurdles left to cross,” he said, “but we’re highly enthusiastic and excited about this program.”


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