Veterans Employment & Training Collaborative: Partnership Serves Veterans

Veterans Employment and Training Collaborative: A Partnership with The Walmart Foundation & Community-based Veteran Service Providers

In a partnership that has spanned four years and two states, Swords to Plowshares and The Walmart Foundation have expanded economic opportunities for more than 4,000 veterans.

In 2012, The Walmart Foundation approached Swords to Plowshares to discuss expanding our impact beyond the San Francisco Bay Area through a re-granting program. With $750,000 in support, Swords to Plowshares launched the California Veterans Employment and Training Collaborative (CVEC): a Walmart Foundation & Swords to Plowshares Workforce Development Project.

Development of a statewide re-granting program was a leap for our organization, but also made sense. Swords to Plowshares is nationally recognized as a leader in veteran services. We are firmly rooted in the San Francisco Bay Area and believe each community best understands the needs of its veteran population.

In the first grant cycle, we partnered with 12 veteran service providers providing employment assistance to veterans in 33 California urban and rural counties. Our Institute for Veteran Policy applied our direct service best practices and provided outreach, program design and sustainability technical assistance to sub-grantees based on our Combat to Community® veteran cultural competency education tools while encouraging and supporting sub-grantees’ program innovations to better serve veterans within their region. With our project partners, we assessed nearly 1,000 California veterans and helped 469 veterans obtain employment.

The re-granting program also further established Swords to Plowshares’ reputation as veteran services experts and led to an additional statewide re-granting program supported by The California Wellness Foundation to improve services for women veteran.

Next to California, Texas has the second highest veteran population. After much research and internal discussions, 2014 brought on a new opportunity to pilot the re-granting program in Texas in coordination with a second re-granting program in California. The Walmart Foundation provided $1.35 million to support the California and Texas Veteran Employment and Training Collaboratives (CVEC and TVEC). Swords to Plowshares selected 11 California sub-grantee partners to achieve our goal of helping 1,000 California veterans obtain employment. Staff spent several months researching the needs and existing services available for Texas veterans. After one-on-one visits with a list of potential sub-grantees, we selected five Texas organizations to partner with us in this pilot project. Both the California and Texas projects were rewarding successes! Between 2014 and 2015, CVEC helped 733 veterans obtain employment and TVEC secured jobs for 357 veterans.

Staff found that barriers to care and successful employment for veterans were very similar in California and Texas. While the regional industries were very different — oil versus information technology — the lessons learned from the subgrantees’ innovative apprenticeship and vocational training programs were universal.

For 2016, we entered our third re-granting partnership with The Walmart Foundation with $1.6 million in funding to continue both the California and Texas Employment and Training Collaborative programs. In 2016, we selected ten California sub-grantee partners and four in Texas. We continue to focus our technical assistance efforts on building the sustainability of our partner’s programs and organizations to ensure veterans have the support they need to build their economic stability—a key element of a successful return to civilian life. Staff are increasing the collective impact of our partnerships and engaging collaboratively with organizations in both regions. In October 2016, we hosted all 14 CVEC and TVEC partners for a two-day workshop at the War Memorial Building in San Francisco.

The partnership with The Walmart Foundation and our CVEC and TVEC partners listed below has engaged in outreach and assessment to over 4,000 veterans seeking employment assistance. Together we have routed veterans in need of supportive services to appropriate care, helped 1,580 veterans train for new careers, and secured employment for more than 1,550 unemployed and underemployed veterans. In the coming year, we aim to secure employment for an additional 875 veterans. Swords to Plowshares is grateful to The Walmart Foundation for its encouragement and continued partnership for this collaborative veteran workforce development program.