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Effort aims to land returning veterans in medical device jobs

Kevin Blanchard served in Iraq.

Kevin Blanchard served in Iraq.

AdvaMed 2012, the national medical device industry convention set for October in Boston, will launch a program designed to increase the hiring of US veterans returning to civilian life.

The initiative, called MedTech Veterans Program Boot Camp for Returning Heroes, was previewed Tuesday at a kickoff event for the gathering of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, the trade group known as AdvaMed. The convention, the first held outside AdvaMed’s headquarters in Washington, is expected to be the organization’s largest.

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Noting that returning veterans face unemployment rates more than 50 percent higher than the US population at large, Marine Corps veteran Kevin Blanchard, national field service representative for the American Legion, told about 130 medical technology executives, “You guys are taking the first step in providing some solutions to returning veterans. Let’s get these guys hired.”

Two groups, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and Danvers cardiac device company Abiomed Inc., each said Tuesday they had committed $25,000 toward the boot camp program, which will include training in resume building and interviewing, plus offer mentors to help 25 veterans translate their skills into jobs in the medical device sector.

Blanchard, a combat engineer who received the Purple Heart, lost part of a leg in a 2005 roadside bombing in Iraq and was fitted with a prosthetic device. He said the idea for the veterans boot camp program arose from a conversation he had at last year’s AdvaMed convention with Abiomed chief executive Michael R. Minogue, a former Army Ranger. Blanchard said he thought US military veterans could benefit from the high pay, diverse jobs, and global reach of the medical technology industry.

“The mission of the industry is providing health care services to the world,” Blanchard said. “We can relate to that. As far as prosthetics, that’s a very intimate connection.”

Coleman Nee, secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, who announced the life sciences center grant, told executives, “Returning veterans will find opportunities in our life sciences sector. They’ve stood on the line and fought for our nation. And now they can come home and be part of your bottom line.”

AdvaMed officials project close to 2,200 people will attend the Oct. 1-3 convention at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The center also hosted the Biotechnology Industry Organization annual convention, which drew more than 16,500 people in June.

About 750 people have registered for AdvaMed 2012, up from the 500 that had registered at this time for last year’s gathering in Washington, which attracted about 1,700 people, said Kenneth Mendez, the group’s senior executive vice president. Mendez said AdvaMed has signed up a record number of exhibitors and companies planning presentations.

“There’s such pride in the marketplace here,” Mendez said, citing the cluster of medical device companies in Massachusetts. “Boston and the medical technology industry are synonymous.”

Medical devices are the largest export for Massachusetts and a major focus of biomedical innovation at established companies, start-ups, and research hospitals in the state.

Peter Stebbins, chairman of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, which is helping to organize the convention, said its message will be “medical devices are important to the economy, important to changing people’s lives, and Boston is uniquely placed in that area.”

Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.
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