New course helps veterans striving to succeed in the civilian workforce

A new course at the University of Sydney will give recently returned veterans the skills they need to transition to non-military work.

The Skills Training and Reintegration Initiative for Veterans Education (STRIVE) program – free for ex-servicemen and women who have returned or been discharged in the past five years – is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia.

The program is supported by founding partner SoldierOn and chief patron Professor the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir, and will run through the University’s Centre for Continuing Education.

“As we often focus on the important historic contribution of our ANZACs, we can overlook the needs of veterans who are serving Australia in the present day,” said Professor Michael Biercuk, who co-founded the program.

“Properly honouring our ANZACs requires more than staring admiringly at sepia-toned photographs, or buying commemorative merchandise. It requires us to take action and support the brave men and women sacrificing so much on our behalf right now. Leveraging the infrastructure of the University was the best way I could see to make a contribution.”

Professor Biercuk, an experimental quantum physicist, first saw the need for an educational program while working as a civilian contractor in a US Defence agency during the height of the Iraq war.

“Working alongside recently returned veterans and active-duty military personnel highlighted not only how much we owe these men and women, but how we can collectively fail to assist those in need of assistance.”

“There is a critical gap in supporting ex-service personnel who don’t have the same urgent needs as those suffering from post-traumatic stress, and who are simply trying to transition the skills developed through many years of military service into a career environment with which they’re unfamiliar. With STRIVE, we hope to provide tailored skill development and education to fill this gap,” Professor Biercuk said.

STRIVE, which will launch as a short-form pilot in late May, will cover skills from how to apply for a job in the civilian market to planning time and balancing priorities, communicating effectively in the workplace, thinking and writing critically, and using information technology.

Organisers hope the full program will be rolled out within the next year, and will form the beginning of a signature initiative at the University focusing on the needs and challenges faced by contemporary veterans.

“Ensuring we address the needs of our service members will require the support of the public. We intend to keep this free for veterans and need assistance to accomplish this.”

Members of the public who are interested in supporting the program can do so via http://cce.sydney.edu.au/STRIVE