Life in the military can be tough. And for many, life out of the military can be even tougher.
According to a recent survey by Edelman Intelligence, 51-percent of all post-9/11 veterans have had a hard time finding appropriate work after being discharged. And worse, only 17-percent of employers surveyed by Edelman see veterans as positive additions to the workplace. That’s a major problem given that more than 200,000 enlisted service members and officers leave the armed forces each year.
Unfortunately, many service members begin planning their transitions to civilian life too late, says Andrea Goldstein, a U.S. Navy veteran and CEO of nonprofit Service to School, which helps veterans get into college.
“There really needs to be a paradigm shift within the military that everyone is going to leave,” she says. “Whether you’re going to leave after your first enlistment or whether you’re going to retire after 30 years, everyone leaves.”
A brewing fellowship program located in a drab South Jersey industrial park is trying to smooth out that transition by providing vets with not just jobs but fulfilling careers. Sandwiched between a CrossFit gym and an auto repair shop in Forked River, New Jersey, is the tiny Backward Flag Brewing Company. It was started by combat veteran Torie Fisher who launched Arms 2 Artisans, Backward Flag’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm earlier this year. Two fellowships will be available annually to any post-9/11 veteran who was honorably discharged within the past eight years and want to learn the brewing business. Along with hands-on brewery training, fellows get stipends of $1,800 a month, job placement assistance, and “a lifelong network of peer support.”