Transitioning Soldiers Prepare for What’s Next | Thomas Nelson Community College

Transitioning Soldiers Prepare for What’s Next

April 12, 2019
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Sergeant Robert Scott, Specialist Jeremy Phillips and Captain Nate Blackford are surrounded by representatives from partners that are making the CSP at Thomas Nelson a reality.


Thomas Nelson celebrated the first cohort of the Army’s Career Skills Program  (CSP) welding class.  The cohort of three will benefit from Thomas Nelson’s latest partnership with the United States Army, Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), Greater Peninsula Workforce Development Board and Virginia Career Works - Greater Peninsula Region.

The training program for marine welders is part of the Army CSP, designed to equip transitioning soldiers, those with only six months before leaving the Army, with skills that lead to civilian careers. Launched in 2016, CSP now includes dozens of training programs on Army installations across America. The welding course is only the second CSP offered at Fort Eustis.

Captain Nate Blackford, Sergeant Robert Scott, and Specialist Jeremy Phillips all completed the program at Thomas Nelson, received approval of specific welds from instructor William Wade and NNS instructors, who will continue their training at the shipyard.

“There’s a clear need for more transition training programs in the region, and we believe the welding course fills a definite gap, both for military personnel leaving the service and area employers,” said Gary Pounder, Director of Contract Credit and Military Affairs at Thomas Nelson. “It gives service members an in-demand skill that provides more employment options once they hang up the uniform, and, at the same time, it increases the pool of highly trained workers needed for the region’s ship building and ship repair industries.”

Through this partnership all three students were fully funded for the welding training.

According to Larry Horne of NNS Workforce Development and Training Services, around 6,000 people were hired in the skills trades at NNS since 2015-16. In addition, since last year about 24 percent of that population was military.

“We know our military has been trained to hang in there, which is important,” said Horne who was also concerned about military leaving the area. “We are losing a fabulous resource, which is why it’s so important for us to focus on transitioning military.”

Most of the students heard about the program through word of mouth and chose welding because of the future it provided.

“It gives hope. It’s hard to find jobs and this gives you hope that people are willing to help and put money into programs that help families transitioning out,” said SGT. Scott. “This program gives you hope… I know I can take the knowledge I learned and have this in my back pocket and I know that when in need there are programs out there willing to help not just me but most importantly my wife and kids.”

The program allows military personnel to spend up to 16 weeks in a credentialing, certification, on-the-job training or similar program during their last six months on active duty. Military personnel interested in these programs must apply through their chain of command—and be approved—prior to the start of training.

As Capt. Blackford prepares to retire after 20 years of service he recognizes that these new skills are needed.

“Technical and trade skills are becoming more and more needed. I think this program is needed to give us Army guys a leg up and what equates to better success in the civilian sectors,” stated Capt. Blackford. “It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, transitioning can be hard. This is a great place to be to get the support needed while getting the knowledge and education as you step out of the Army and preparing for the next step or path.”

“The opportunity being given to us is too good to give up. Free training for a good trade and the shipyard has your back from the beginning,” said Spc. Phillips. “This program gives you too many reasons to pass up.”

The training is open to military members leaving other branches of the military, through the Skill Bridge programs of the Navy and Air Force. The next cohort begins in the summer.

For more information on the CSP/Skill Bridge Welding Program, contact Gary Pounder at 757-825-2938 or at