About 1,000 soldiers are transitioning out of Fort Bliss every month, according to city officials. About 16% of those stay in El Paso, which could be a big win for efforts to diversify the borderland’s labor market.
City officials said transitioning soldiers could help strengthen the region’s health care economy as places like the Medical Center of the Americas continue to expand.
Nicole Ferrini, the city’s chief resilience officer and director of community and human development, said soldiers leaving the military often have a wide variety of skills and qualifications that can be applied to other parts of the labor sector.
“We have to be able to connect the skillsets of folks in our community and match them with job opportunities before they look for those opportunities somewhere else,” Ferrini said.
The city has a number of resources to help veterans, including a fellowship program called The Bridge that gives transitioning soldiers an opportunity to learn the ropes of local government and network with the city.
The Bridge is a 90-day program where veterans can be placed in one of the city’s 27 departments. The program was launched in March, and there have been five participants so far, Ferrini said.
One of those participants was retired Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Albright, the city’s chief military officer. He retired from the Army in March and began his fellowship in April. He was then hired by the city in July.
“We take a holistic approach to looking at the veterans and transitioning soldiers: health care, education, employment and quality of life. Those are the areas we look at and how to improve these areas,” Albright said. “What can we do to make sure El Paso is the No. 1 place for a veteran and their family to want to live?”
The program takes on one fellow at a time, Albright said.
The city works with several partners, including the El Paso Chamber, Borderplex Alliance and the Armed Forces Chamber of Commerce, Ferrini said.
The Medical Center of the America Foundation’s interest in expanding the city’s biomedical device sector, she said, is an opportunity for veterans to use some of the skills they gained while in the military.
“A gap identified was a specific skill set in our community that we’re missing,” Ferrini said. “When we saw that, we realized we do have a resource with folks that do have some of these skills.
“It’s simply a matter of connecting the companies that do this work with the folks exiting the military and really growing that segment of our workforce. We activate a whole industry that we may otherwise have missed.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.