It’s not always easy to find work after leaving the military. It may be even more difficult, after leaving a profession with such a clearly defined mission and purpose, to find the kind of work that offers a similar feeling of accomplishment.
Veterans Green Jobs (VGJ) was founded in 2008 specifically to fill this void in the lives of American’s military veterans – and in the bargain, to help transform the nation’s economy. “People who have served in the military quite frequently have a unique viewpoint and approach to life,” said VGJ’s CEO Brett KenCairn. “They are committed and passionate about serving.”
At Veterans Green Jobs – whose mission is to enable and support veterans’ leadership of “America’s transition to energy independence, ecological restoration, community renewal, and economic prosperity” – military veterans can take advantage of several different opportunities. VGJ’s veteran development program helps active-duty service members in the military-to-civilian transition – helping veterans coordinate their benefits, health care, and support services, and also pointing them toward a new career by offering training programs in various green job sectors.
Those who want training in green-sector careers can participate in the organization’s HEAT (Home Energy Audit Training) program, to position themselves for rapid deployment in the energy efficiency industry – or they can join the Veterans Green Corps, a nationwide organization of eight-person wilderness crews who receive on-the-job training in forest management, land conservation, and stewardship projects such as trail maintenance, fire prevention, and reforestation. A new training program, Veterans City Canopy, was recently launched in Denver, Colo., planting 4,600 trees that will shade, reduce energy usage, and lower utility bills for urban homes and other buildings. The trees are planted by homeless veterans who learn basic landscape and nursery skills while piloting a program VGJ hopes to expand around the country.
According to KenCairn, VGJ also strives to place its trainees within the green industry – so far, achieving better than a 70 percent placement rate. In the last year, VGJ, the winner of two weatherization contracts in the state of Colorado, has also directly hired veterans to help implement these contracts, which will reduce the energy consumption in hundreds of low-income households.
After its first year of operations, Veterans Green Jobs is already expanding from its roots in Denver to other states – such as Pennsylvania and Virginia, where veterans can participate in their green training programs – and has ambitions to become a nationwide transition organization for American veterans.
Vince Ingram, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force as an avionics technician, is now the purchasing manager for VGJ’s weatherization program in the Greater Denver area. A Denver native, he spent much of his youth exploring the surrounding wilderness – camping almost every weekend with his family, fishing the lakes and streams, and hiking the mountain trails. When he discovered an opportunity to join Veterans Green Jobs, he jumped at the chance. “I love the job,” he said. “I enjoying knowing that I’m doing something good for the community, the environment, and helping us become more energy independent. I get a lot of job satisfaction out of that.”