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Labor Department Leverages Tech to Serve VETS
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
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Tech Vets
The Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) focuses on four key areas to support our nation’s veterans: 1) preparing veterans for meaningful careers, 2) providing them with employment resources and expertise 3) protecting their employment rights, and 4) promoting the employment of veterans and related training opportunities to employers across the country.

DOL VETS has such an important mission, and although it is not one of the newer agencies that might have access to the kind of technological resources that a startup/ hybrid might, we’re making big strides with the types of tools that can be used to help connect employees with one another as well as with our customers, regardless of which state or region they work.

Connecting Tech to Mission

Because we’re just one of the many agencies within the Department of Labor, department leaders drive the internal collaborative and communicative technologies—and the department has really focused on leveraging new ideas to help optimize the entire workforce. Not only does DOL VETS use traditional communication tools like WebEx to connect, we’ve been using collaborative tools like Yammer and other innovative platforms to help us communicate across the entire department more effectively. This is extremely important for us because VETS has field offices and staff across the country, making the ability to spread information and ideas quickly critical to our mission.

Because the majority of VETS staff resides outside the beltway, the organization was already familiar with the types of tools that help bring people together virtually for a common mission. For use, that mission is to connect transitioning service members, spouses, caregivers, and veterans who are already out of uniform with a number of resources to help them achieve successful careers in civilian life.

We see that employees in the field are helping our employees inside the Beltway think differently about how to leverage new technologies. The connectivity these technologies strengthen our distributed workforce, culturally speaking, and enable us to provide better service.

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We often receive a lot of new ideas from employees who understand how to leverage technology to better reach our customers. The more that internal staff sees the department and our agency leveraging technological tools to facilitate the mission, the more comfortable they become with using these types of tools to connect with state and local partners, veteran-servicing organizations, and nonprofits. This drives additional proficiencies in various skillsets, and helps employees better understand how to leverage these same types of tools internally. 

Case in Point 

Last year, we focused on updating and modernizing some existing tools and resources. DOL VETS manages the employment workshop curriculum for three out of the five days in a service members’ transition assistance program, which is now mandatory for all veterans preparing for their life as a civilian. Our transition assistance curriculum was not only updated and refreshed to reflect more modern and useful employment information, but we also transitioned our online curriculum into a free eBook, which can be downloaded from Amazon. This is a huge step forward for us because it meets people where they are—giving them access to the information they need via their most preferred method, whether that is in person, online, or downloadable from any mobile device.

These kinds of new tools that connect our resources to our customers also help equip our own internal staff with a new set of competencies. for example, to accomplish this external goal, internal employees needed to develop new skill sets in order to work together to upload the curriculum in the correct format, design the eBook, and make it readily available and downloadable.

Looking to the Future 

VETS is going to continue exploring how we might continue leveraging mobile technology and apps to connect veterans with the right kinds of employment resources they need to succeed in civilian life. We’ve also recently re-competed our National Veterans Training Institute contract, which defines how training will be provided to the service providers who offer free direct employment services to veterans at the more than 2400 brick-and-mortar American Job Centers (or AJCs) available through the DOL network in local communities across the country and in U.S. Territories .

In addition, the advisory committee for Veterans’ Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach is asking us to assess new technology and tools to modernize the way we connect the employment information and resources with those who need it most. By modernizing the way we’re delivering our mission to veterans, transitioning service members and their families, we’re also modernizing and optimizing the way our workforce works together.

To learn more about DOL VETS and its mission visit www.dol.gov/veterans, follow us on twitter @VETS_DOL or subscribe to our free monthly veteran employment update by clicking here.

About the Author
Mika Cross is an award-winning workplace expert with two decades as a career civil servant. 
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