Freedom isn’t free, a truth we are reminded of more than ever by the citizens of Ukraine as they fight to preserve their own independence and democracy. As we celebrate Veterans Day this year, I am grateful for those whose service in our country’s Armed Forces has helped safeguard our freedoms. They deserve our gratitude — and more.
I believe our nation’s veterans, in times of peace or war, deserve our commitment to never forget their service. This means acknowledging the physical, emotional, and occupational challenges veterans face transitioning from military service to civilian life. Successfully navigating that transition means ensuring that veterans — and their families — have access to the physical and mental health support and career counseling they need.
An important part of that transition can be education. As an educator, and as an Army National Guard veteran myself, I know the incredible value that those with military training and skills can bring to the civilian workforce, with the right help shifting gears.
Veterans leave military service as products of a system that emphasizes discipline, focus, and competency-based training. They are familiar with job-skills schooling that has been provided in innovative ways, outside traditional classrooms, and geared to the needs of the adult or non-traditional learners. This is exactly the preparation and attitude that today’s in-demand civilian careers require, and it makes veterans the kind of men and women that Ohio employers are eager to hire and the kind of student we value.
Today at Western Governors University, I am proud to say that we help veterans gain the additional education they need to turn their military job experience into an accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree in a broad range of programs. For veterans accustomed to the military’s competency-based instruction methods, WGU’s approach will be familiar. Students earn credit toward a degree by demonstrating their mastery of a subject from previous work experience, rather than by how many hours they sit in the classroom or are forced to spend “re-learning” what they already know.
Our economy is in a time of transition right now. After a trend of strong growth sputtered during the pandemic, things seemed to regain their footing. Now new challenges are arising. Even with all of the ups and downs, however, knowledge remains sought after. Those who have it aren’t guaranteed an easy path, but they will also experience fewer bumps on the road than those with fewer skills or training.
For veterans reentering civilian life right now, the best way to leverage their experience is to take stock of what they want to do and pursue those opportunities. If it means going back to college for a degree or credential, any higher education institution would be proud to serve them, with gratitude. The same is, of course, true for WGU.
This Veterans Day, as we show our gratitude to the men and women who have given so much to our nation, we must never lose sight of the challenges many may face when they re-enter civilian life, especially in these uncertain times. For any Ohioan – including veterans – seeking the educational credentials needed to compete for in-demand jobs, Western Governors University can be the perfect resource. And for employers seeking motivated, tested workers with credentialed skills, WGU graduates can be just what you are looking for.
The writer is chancellor of WGU Ohio, the state affiliate of online, nonprofit Western Governors University.