“This article by Korie Wilkins was originally published by Military Times.
In the Army, Ulrich Nkou Sembe worked as an operating room specialist. When he got his first civilian job after transitioning out of military life, he went on to do the same thing in the private sector.
That seamless transition is courtesy of the U.S. Army’s PaYS program, which stands for Partnership for Youth Success. The program has been around for more than 20 years and is a recruiting tool that ensures up to five job interviews upon separation from the Army with corporate partners committed to hiring former servicemen and women.
“I liked the uniform,” said Nkou Sembe, who is still in the Army Reserves. “And I like my job. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it.”
In addition to his job as a surgical technologist at HCA Healthcare in Texas, Nkou Sembe is also at Houston Community College studying biology. He plans to go to medical school and hopes to become a flight surgeon or field surgeon in the Army one day.
“That is the goal,” he said.
And the PaYS program helped him find a good job quickly — allowing him to keep pursuing his dreams.
“We’ve stood the test of time over the years, when it comes to helping assist transitioning Soldiers,” said Antonio Johnson, PaYS program manager.
Nowadays, there are dozens of nonprofits, as well as programs within the services, that help transitioning servicemembers. But the Army program has been around a long time and has a track record of success. There are currently 966 PaYS partners, 782,860 jobs available and 275,974 PaYS Soldiers.
PaYS started in 2000 and began as a way to help with recruiting. The Army helps Soldiers gain valuable skills that will translate into civilian employment — even helping them obtain training and certification if necessary. Nkou Sembe said he got his certification as a Certified Surgical Technologist through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting to work in operating rooms in the Army, for example.
PaYS partners, including companies like General Motors, USAA, Cintas, and Century 21, interview servicemembers, and about 60 percent of them receive job offers, Johnson said.
Recruits can choose to sign up for the program upon enlistment and choose a qualified career path in the Army to help with future job prospects. The Army trains recruits in a number of different fields that translate into civilian employment, Johnson said — meaning it’s a win-win for employers and servicemembers alike.
Many young people see the Army as a stepping stone to their future careers, and PaYS helps with that plan.
“The Army has made it a priority to help transitioning Soldiers,” Johnson said. “The more they successfully transfer out, the better. No one wants unemployed veterans.
“It’s the soldier-for-life philosophy. We take care of each other for life.”
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