The Trainability Factor

(*Guest blog post by Justin Berkenstock)

Anyone who is faced with making tough hiring decisions on a regular basis can truly appreciate the valuable time, effort and energy expended while finding the best candidate for any role.  There are several criteria that a manager will use as the basis for their decision.  Yet, there is one that a veteran candidate inherently brings to the table that can be easily overlooked…trainability.  The simple fact that every veteran has successfully completed an intensive training program, prior to being sent to their duty station, is something that any company or hiring manager can leverage when selecting a candidate.

While on a recent call with a client seeking to employ veterans we spoke to the reasons why they felt veterans would excel in their organization.  After a detailed conversation about the values the company seeks in a candidate, we came to an agreement on how those were aligned with the values that are engrained in veterans from their first day in the service.  I could sense there was still an underlying concern in my client’s mind and candidly asked what that was.  He explained that he typically looks at people for his roles that have 1 to 3 or 3 to 5 years of experience, but often finds candidates lacking the inherent core values they seek.  Thorough our discussion it became evident that the challenge he was faced with was one I’ve heard several times from various managers.  He felt that veterans possessed the values but he felt they weren’t qualified based on specific past experience relating to the field or job. In other words, he was unclear on the true level to which veterans can be trained and how quickly that can be facilitated.

The pretense for military training is that the individuals have passed, at minimum, their ASVAB (basic proficiency test) prior to entry.  Every military occupational specialty (MOS) has a condensed and intensive training program to get this basically trained individual to a functionally proficient operator in their field in the shortest amount of time possible.  I offer my own MOS school as a great example of how this takes place. Upon graduating Marine Corp Boot Camp I was assigned to Infantry Training Battalion at the School of Infantry. During my tenure I was taught basic infantry tactics and techniques in a matter of a couple weeks. This was quickly follow by approximately 3.5 weeks of intensive specialty training to achieve my primary MOS of Machine Gunner, in which I fully learned three separate weapon systems and how to be tactically and technically proficient in employing them.  The total MOS specific training program only lasted approximately 52 days.  After graduating I was assigned to my unit where I received mentoring from a senior Marine with the same MOS and countless hours of continuing hands-on application training to reinforce what I had learned.  To be clear, when I arrived at my unit I was fully functional and deployable in my role, yet I was given the tools and guidance to refine my abilities and hone my skills.

For a hiring manager in the challenging job market we face, this trainability factor presents a viable means of placing the right kind of candidate on their team based on core values and attitude.  Rather than selecting candidates based on past skills and experience, it presents the ability to select a person who fits the team and environment and train for the necessary job specific skills.  A person who will be dedicated to learning the job as quickly as possible in order to achieve success, and one that will infuse the organization with other inherent character traits such as honor, commitment and loyalty.  It presents the option of placing the right type of person who can learn and grow within the organization given the proper mentorship.  This can alleviate the struggle of working with people who may know the job from day one, but can have an underlying detrimental effect on the overall operational effectiveness of a team.

*Authored by Justin Berkenstock, HicksPro Veteran Programs Account Manager

Justin served four years in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry machine gunner and vehicle commander/team leader where he achieved the rank of Sergeant with a heavy weapons platoon called CAAT (Combined Anti-Armor Team) with 2nd Battalion 1st Marines, Weapons Company.  He was in from 2003 to 2007 during which time he had two combat tours to Iraq in support of operations Vigilant Resolve, Iron Hammer and Steel Curtain; he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received in December of 2005.

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