Reserve, Corporate America Team Up through Employer Partnership Initiative

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LAST year the Army Reserve celebrated its 100th anniversary. Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz and INOVA Health Systems Chief Executive Officer Knox Singleton signed a first-ever agreement that allowed the Army Reserve to recruit and train medical specialists not only for the Reserves, but for guaranteed employment with the largest health care-provider in the Washington area.

Coined the Employer Partnership Initiative, Stultz came up with the idea as a way to help fulfill Reserve unit needs and also employment needs of the civilian sector, in such fields as medical, transportation and law enforcement.

In the case of INOVA, the agreement provides new citizen-warriors with opportunities for employment at one of six health care centers after Soldiers have learned military occupational skills in critical clinical support areas such as radiology, respiratory therapy and surgical occupations.

A year after that first initiative was signed, the EPI program has mushroomed to include more than 153 businesses, as well as local and state governments who are looking to fill their ranks with Reserve Soldiers.

"We want you to join the Army Reserve, but we also want to get you a civilian skill set at the same time, so what I want is a successfully employed Army Reserve Soldier," said Stultz. "What I don't need is an unemployed Reserve Soldier, because what he makes on his weekend drill pay is not going to pay the rent."

When the Army Reserve first looked into the viability of the partnership, leadership looked at where the biggest opportunities and needs were in the civilian sector and matched them with the Reserve's needs. The civilian opportunities that popped right up were law enforcement, medical technology and long-haul trucking.

"The American Trucking Association told us they had an aging workforce that they were going to have to replace and that they already had a lot of shortages in finding qualified drivers, so we thought we could help where we share the same skill sets," Stultz said. "We already have those skills in our force; we have transportation units, medical units and military police units."

The general pointed out that Conway Freight, a partner in Ann Arbor, Mich., visited a Reserve unit several months ago looking for drivers and hired six Soldiers on the spot to fill some immediate needs.

"So, from the standpoint of the Soldiers, they're very excited and happy and saying it's because the Army Reserve just helped them get better jobs," Stultz said. "And, Conway, they're very excited because they're saying, 'Hey, the Army Reserve just helped us fill some needs,' so this is a win-win situation for both of us."

Shortly after INOVA Health System signed on, the word was out and other organizations and businesses started calling, waving their hands and wondering if they too could participate, Stultz said. J.B. Hunt and Snyder Trucking have signed on, as have IBM, GE, Sears, ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and the Washington Metro Police.

"When I've talked to some of these CEOs and vice presidents they'll tell you they employ a lot of veterans and they employ a lot of Reserve Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines because of their integrity and work ethic," Stultz said. …