With the last of the U.S. troops leaving Iraq at the end of 2011 and the steady drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan, there have been a number of U.S. veterans returning home to explore their new career options. The Post 9/11 GI Bill is easing the financial burden for large numbers of returned veterans who want to complete a college degree, while for others it is providing an opportunity for graduate level education or vocational training.
Over the last 12 years, America has seen a number of U.S. servicemen and women who have made sacrifices to serve their country return in search of career opportunities where they can apply their knowledge, training and military experience. The work of organizations like The Mission Continues and programs like the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative are only a snapshot of the various ways the public and private sectors are helping veterans transition back into civilian life through service programs, charity opportunities and meaningful career prospects.
Secretary of State John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, realized the importance of attracting qualified veterans to foreign affairs positions within the federal government, and especially at the Department of State. Veterans bring a unique skill-set to bear, with training and experience that ranges from region specific knowledge to functional area expertise, and are an excellent resource to advance foreign policy goals at the U.S. Department of State. With this in mind, in October 2013 Secretary Kerry launched the Veterans Innovation Partnership (VIP), a public-private alliance that will serve America's returned service members by preparing them for meaningful diplomacy and development careers. VIP enhances America’s global leadership and provides education, employment resources, and expertise to returned veterans.
The Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships (S/GP) partnered with several other federal agencies, private sector partners, and academic institutions to launch VIP last year. All partners involved aim to give VIP fellows the experience they need to develop meaningful skills in international affairs that will lead to continued careers in foreign affairs in the public or private sectors.
As of today, the first four VIP fellows have begun their work in several offices at the U.S. Department of State, with another eight scheduled to begin in February and March.
Ben Shoaf, a former Air Force Airman, started his fellowship in S/GP in December 2014. He hit the ground running and is taking on responsibility for important work to be done in the office, including drafting S/GP’s 2015 State of Global Partnerships Report and planning for the next application round for the fellowship. He commented, “Before I heard about VIP, I was constantly on the search for opportunities to gain government experience in international affairs, so when I saw this announcement I knew it was for me. I feel so fortunate to have been chosen, and I am already realizing the value of my experience here.”
Our office is also hosting Albert Espinoza, who has quickly been introduced to the wide range of issues the office oversees, including the 2015 Fishackathon to be held in June. “I was extremely honored to receive word that I had been selected to participate in the inaugural VIP fellowship program, an opportunity I had been awaiting since its announcement back in 2013,” he said. “I’m excited for the experiences this year-long fellowship will bring.”
We are already working on the next VIP application cycle to start bringing the most qualified candidates for the next round of fellows in Fall 2015. It is exciting and encouraging to see this partnership provide a means for veterans to continue their public service after they put their uniform away. With the addition of new private sector partners and the willingness of different bureaus to bring in VIP fellows in the future, the Veterans Innovation Partnership is on track to grow tremendously in the next few years.
For more information:
- Secretary Kerry Welcomes the Inaugural Class of Veterans Innovative Partnerships Fellows
- Veterans Innovative Partnerships Fellows
- Contact the Secretary's Office of Global Partnerships at firstname.lastname@example.org