By Brandon Milligan, COO, StrataTech Education Group
When coming back from serving in the military, it can be quite challenging to transition back to normalcy. Whether that be dealing with the emotions from the homecoming itself or finding a suitable new career, having a clear direction can help adapt to the change of lifestyle. Due to the nationwide shortage of skilled trades workers, and the hands-on nature these careers offer, the attraction to the industry is continuing to grow and become a natural transition for former military members. Many skilled and disciplined veterans enjoy working with their hands and the training they receive in the military often translates very well to detail-oriented trades, like welding.
When considering a career in the skilled trades industry upon returning home from active service, the first step is to find a program that offers the financial support, appropriate curriculum, and an opportunity to achieve success on the road from combat to career. At Tulsa Welding School (TWS), the largest welding school in the country, many opportunities and benefits are exclusively available to former or current military members. In fact, the school has been recognized for several years as a Military Friendly® School for its impactful programs supporting veteran and military students, and their dependents.
Eligible veterans, active duty or dependents enrolling at TWS can take advantage of the GI Bill® and MyCAA programs. The GI Bill® can often open doors to successful and satisfying careers. While some veterans may use the GI Bill® to obtain a college degree, its use is not limited to traditional college settings. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, veterans can use the GI Bill® to attend paid training at a trade school. In addition to the GI Bill®, military scholarships are also an option. These scholarships typically offer financial aid for both current and former military members and can be a great way to obtain money for further education and career training.
TWS offers an onsite, certified VA specialist, whose main purpose is to work directly with veterans and current military members to ensure they understand their benefits and opportunities within the program and on campus, is available at each TWS campus in Tulsa, Houston and Jacksonville. The VA specialist is also prepared to assist veterans with career placement upon completion of the program to further cement their success in the skilled trades industry. Both military-specific offerings are notable resources for military students as they adjust to civilian life.
Often, former military students who enroll into skilled trades programs already have former experience doing electrical, welding or HVAC work while serving in the military. As they enroll into a more formalized program, the training they already received in the military certainly translates well to their new endeavors within the skilled trades. This prior training is a great baseline introduction and starting point as new tasks and challenges are presented during the program. With constant advancements in technology welding continues to evolve, making it an exciting and suitable opportunity for former military members who enjoy a fast-paced, always changing environment.
Welding and other skilled trades careers offer a competitive salary and high job security. Additionally, with baby boomers retiring in record numbers and stepping out of the workforce, there is immense opportunity for growth and longevity within the skilled trades industry. For example, the American Welding Society estimates there will be a shortage of more than 290,000 welders by 2020. This creates an incredible opportunity for expanded technical training throughout the entire country. TWS offers hands-on education, with a strong emphasis on technical competencies and skills designed to meet employers’ needs, and offers apprenticeships through its network of employers and partnerships. Through on-campus job fairs and a dedicated career services department, students are set up for a successful career before completion of the program.
The skilled trades industry is proven to provide fulfilling careers. When considering your next career move as a veteran or military student, the skilled trades industry is one that should seriously be considered. Job security, competitive salary and opportunity for growth are just a few of the many advantages the industry provides. By finding a vocational school that offers financial benefits and additional support, your transition will be seamless – your new career in the skilled trades awaits!
Brandon Milligan joined StrataTech Education Group in March 2014 as the Academic Dean of the Tulsa Welding School Jacksonville, FL campus. He was promoted to Campus President in October 2014. A year later, in October 2015, he was promoted to Regional Campus President for the Tulsa Welding School campuses in Jacksonville, FL and Tulsa, OK. Under his leadership, the Jacksonville, FL campus experienced record breaking population, retention, placement, revenue, and EBITDA growth. He was promoted to his current role of Chief Operating Officer in February 2017.
Mr. Milligan has been involved in the postsecondary industry for 16 years, serving in roles such as Instructor, Department Chair, Education Supervisor and Academic Dean, to name a few. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an emphasis in Management and Strategy from Western Governors University and a Bachelor of Science in Information Management and Security from Lincoln College of Technology. Mr. Milligan also volunteers as a Team Leader for the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
 According to 2015 IPEDS data TWS has the largest total combined enrollment of students for all post-secondary schools in the U.S. with the designated largest program of CIP Code Welding Technology/Welder.
 GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.