On Thursday, January 31st 2019, Swords to Plowshares in Oakland hosted a panel discussion of former military servicemembers who are now working at Penumbra, C&H Sugar, SSA Marine, and Corteva. The group discussed careers in manufacturing, how they transitioned into their civilian roles, and what advice they had to offer other veterans. About 30 veterans were in attendance along with apprenticeship development and veteran services experts.

James Gardner, Panel Moderator on far left.

Panelists From Left to Right:
Adam Jackman – Operations Project Manager at Penumbra in Alameda (Army)
Darren Zhuang – Maintenance Supervisor at C&H Sugar in Crocket (Navy)
Dane Snodgrass – Crane Mechanic Apprentice at SSA Marine in Oakland (Army)
Zheng Li – Mechanical Engineer at Corteva Agriscience in Pittsburg (Navy)

The panel discussion and the Q&A that followed proved lively and informative. Panelists acknowledged that translation of military skills to a civilian resume is not easy. A couple of the panelists had worked with organizations who helped in this process, while others experienced challenges in the transition.

One panelist emphasized that employers often do not fully understand what military experience means. In part, it means knowing how to apply knowledge and use resources under uncertain conditions. It is important that supervisors & managers are aware that military experience often means navigating complex situations, as well as following orders.  

The military gave me skills for attention to detail and an ability to follow strict rules and regulations necessary for the job.

Darren Zhuang

Maintenance Supervisor, C&H Sugar

The audience asked numerous questions to better understand the kinds of jobs that are available and how their own technical skills can fit into manufacturing careers. 

Jon Fowkes of AMTAC was in attendance to detail available manufacturing training through the community colleges and describe how apprenticeships can provide a debt-free path to a fulfilling, middle class career. 

One individual described the high level of skill they have already obtained. Mr. Fowkes pointed out that in the apprenticeship environment, demonstration of previously obtained skills can be a substitute for a very significant portion of the training. 

The panel discussion concluded with the Swords to Plowshares hosts giving out five raffle drawings of $50 gift cards to Home Depot. Swords offers critically important wrap around services for veterans as they transition out of the military or seek a better path for themselves in their civilian lives. One of the hiring managers who was in attendance spoke of the importance that such services play and how valuable a well-executed, employer-based, mentor program has been for the success of their employees, be they veterans or otherwise.

As was the case at the Dec-6 event, attendees stayed well after the panel discussion concluded in order to speak directly with the panelists and learn more about career opportunities in manufacturing, seek advice on getting connected, and share stories about life aboard a nuclear sub!

AMBayArea is committed to bringing more of the community into the manufacturing talent pool by educating the public of the career opportunities that are available to them. We work with community organizations with expertise in delivering the vital services needed so that individuals struggling with barriers can succeed and grow and manufacturers who hire them have taken that risk out of the equation.

Attendees left with this resource sheet to help point them in the right direction and give them further information about careers, training, and available workforce services.

Attribution: Manufacturing Institute’s Dream it. Do it. network and BACCC contributed elements for this handout.

Special thanks to EASTBAY Works and the region’s Workforce Development Boards for supporting this work