Student veterans from East Bay community colleges visited Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) on March 9 as part of a weeklong event connecting veterans to employment opportunities in tech, manufacturing and construction.

The Veterans to Technology (Vets2Tech) Week, which began on March 5, enabled student veterans to visit two of the East Bay’s largest employers — LLNL and semiconductor manufacturer Lam Research Corporation in Livermore — as well as Accu-Bore Directional Drilling in Benicia, and Nationwide Boiler Incorporated and MDC Vacuum in Fremont. The Vets2Tech Employer Group, led by Beth McCormick of LLNL and Steve Lanza of Lam, shares skill needs and resources for finding veterans and works with local community colleges on developing technology programs to pipeline veterans and other students into their companies.

The goal of the week, co-sponsored by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, Innovation Tri-Valley and the City of Fremont, was to expose veterans to college pathways and educate them on local work possibilities. The group of about a dozen students from Ohlone, Laney, Las Positas and Diablo Valley community colleges were referred by their schools and veterans’ programs.

“The Vets2Tech week was a collaborative effort by employers to engage post 9/11 veterans into jobs in manufacturing that will pay livable Bay Area wages,” McCormick said. “This is the first group of its kind in the country, and it continues to expand as employers learn about the group.”

Melissa Santo Domingo, an engineering student at Ohlone College and former nurse in the U.S. Army Reserves, is pursuing her education in cybersecurity, and said visiting the Lab had been on her “bucket list” for several years.

“LLNL was the only company I’ve thought about working for. I’m focused on staying in the Bay Area and this is the only place I wanted to go,” Santo Domingo said. “I’m the type of person who likes to do something different every day. I believe cybersecurity does that — it’s never the same pace. I really enjoy going after the bad guy.

“I have a feeling I could get into working here,” she added. “Now that I have some insight, I’m looking forward to putting some effort into it.”

During their visit to the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center, the students heard from a panel of current LLNL veteran employees about their experiences at the Lab and challenges in obtaining a job after their military careers were over. The panelists discussed how their service prepared them for work and how they used their training to their advantage.

“When I got out of the military I quickly figured out my leadership and maturity skills were different from people who had just gotten out of college, so I moved up quickly,” said Rob Campbell, deputy division superintendent in LLNL’s Laser Systems Engineering & Operations Division and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. “Great leaders are born, but I developed those skills in the military.”

Rich Green, a Navy veteran and electrical safety officer at LLNL, said military veterans are part of a unique talent pool, one that tends to have a better understanding of procedures, safety and the Lab’s mission priorities than the general workforce.

“I’m proud to be a part of bringing veterans aboard and having a camaraderie with them,” Green said. “There’s a bond — a link between veterans. To have a focus on that, when there really wasn’t something like that before, is really rewarding. And it benefits the Lab, too. Other folks probably wouldn’t know this was available without this program.”

Student veteran Dan Hempsmeyer, a U.S. Marine and first-year engineering student at Ohlone College, said the visit was an “uplifting experience,” adding that he could envision himself working for the Lab because of the breadth of work and the sense of a mission not too far removed from his service.

“Vets2Tech is great because it got us here in person and to talk to other veterans who have taken the same path — I think it’s effective to show us the possibilities,” Hempsmeyer said. “Being in the military, you have a sense of responsibility for national security. Here you have a lab based on the same principle. If I can be here helping, that’s something I’d like to do.”

The Lab’s Vets to Tech program with Las Positas College and the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board was established in 2014 and has been recognized as a model employment pathway for veterans, winning the East Bay EDA Award for Innovation in 2017. Since it was instituted, 17 veterans have graduated from the program and 13 have been hired into full-time jobs at the Lab.

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