SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

June 25, 2014

Making connections

Program introduces local vets to life sciences careers

DANVERS — For recent veterans looking to get a job, a simple thing such as keeping a call sign like “Thumper” off a business card could help with the transition from the armed forces to the civilian workforce.

Employers may be turned off or confused by those military nicknames or a rank next to the name of someone who is no longer active in the military.

So, these are best left off a business card, said Mike Grice, the chief operating officer of the MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program, speaking to 10 veterans and several mentors last week at North Shore Community College. The program helps bridge the gap between veterans looking for employment and life sciences and biotech companies looking for skilled workers.

Last week, veterans were coached by a mentor and were introduced to the e-learning aspect of MedTech’s website. They also got to meet with executives at medical device maker Abiomed and hear from human resources officials about careers in the field. They learned how to write a resume, how to interview and how to brand themselves with social media.

“They are stepping into a new career instead of becoming a statistic,” said Grice, a retired 27-year Marine who served four tours overseas, two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.

Grice told veterans that they have what it takes to succeed in the working world. They have leadership skills, attention to detail and decision-making abilities, and they know how to be professional.

How to unpack these skills and translate them on a resume for employers is the challenge, Grice said.

“I think the burden is on the veteran and the employer to find common ground,” said veteran mentor David Leo.

Last year, the jobless rate for veterans who served since 2001 was 9 percent in 2013, and the overall unemployment rate for veterans was 6.6 percent, according to an article from the Armed Forces Press Service posted on the U.S. Department of Defense website in March.

The life sciences and medical technology fields are some of the fastest-growing fields in the nation and in Massachusetts, according to Abiomed President and CEO Michael Minogue, chairman of the MedTech program and a veteran of Desert Storm. The program, which holds seminars across the nation, hopes to bring 5,000 veterans into the life sciences industry by 2018 and 1,000 veterans a year after that.

Last week’s seminar was the first time the program held a re-careering seminar for alumni and student military veterans on a college campus. Janice Forsstrom, the community college’s vice president of administration and finance and former interim president, reached out to Minogue to connect student veterans to the MedTech program.

The daylong seminar was a collaboration among Abiomed, Salem State University and North Shore Community College, which played host to the morning program before veterans toured Abiomed in Danvers in the afternoon. 

Lynn resident Stefanie McBride served as an aviation operations specialist from 1993 to 1996, and she is now attending North Shore Community College, learning about aviation management. The single mom of four said she is not sure if she wants to pursue a career in life sciences, but she was attracted to the program for what it had to offer.

“The program attracted me because of the values it represents,” McBride said, “trying to improve people, trying to help people’s lives.”

Salem State University Veterans Affairs coordinator Ted Serozynsky praised the program. The Navy veteran who served from 2000 to 2006 said there was no such thing when he got out of the service.

“A lot of the things they have in place now, they didn’t have in place then,” he said. He said the challenge is to make returning veterans aware of the opportunities and to prepare them for a transition to the job world.

Veterans who want to learn more about the program and its online opportunities can go to www.mvpvets.org.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

 

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