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    Translating military service into civilian jobs

    New system helps veterans translate their military service into the civilian workforce

    Veterans at the ValleyWorks Career Center in Lawrence trained on TORQ.
    Joanna Rathe/Globe Staff
    Veterans at the ValleyWorks Career Center in Lawrence trained on TORQ.

    Veterans often have a tough time translating their skills to civilian jobs when they leave the military. The title gunnery sergeant doesn’t mean much to most civilian employers, and it can be difficult to explain how a cavalry scout can contribute to the sales team.

    To help unemployed veterans solve this disconnect, the state has rolled out a new software program at its 34 career centers that matches work experience with open jobs. The system analyzes the knowledge, skills, and abilities of a user’s previous positions and finds the best crossover occupations within a given salary range. Called TORQ, for Transformational Occupational Relationship Quotient, the online program is available to all job seekers, but state officials say it will be especially beneficial for veterans. TORQ, which looks at 120 attributes for each job title, broken down by knowledge, skill, and ability, includes more than 9,700 military occupations from all branches of the services.

    With the end of military operations in Iraq and the pending drawdown in Afghanistan, coupled with a weak job market, more veterans are looking for work. In Massachusetts, more than 13,000 veterans visited state career centers in the past year, up from about 10,000 a year before the recession.


    “It is a perfect match for what our transitioning service members need now,’’ says Beth Costa, who runs the veteran employment and training programs for the state.

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    Jonathan Esposito is hoping the TORQ system can show him what to do with his experience as a military police officer and an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Haverhill resident managed a Subway sandwich shop before he joined the Massachusetts National Guard six years ago, but he’s interested in expanding his horizons.

    “I don’t know exactly what else I’m qualified for,’’ he says.

    Esposito, 25, recently attended a TORQ training session at the Lawrence ValleyWorks Career Center, with his wife, Kaylee, whom he met in Iraq. Esposito entered several of his former job titles, including military police officer and food service supervisor (TORQ is still missing some titles, including combat arms jobs such as infantryman), and the system generated a list of alternatives he’s best suited for. Parking enforcement worker generated a score of 99 out of 100, meaning he had nearly all the skills necessary to do the job. Customer service representative netted a 98.

    Joanne Rathe/Globe Staf
    Instructor Eric J. Nelson worked with Mark Kerigan of Woburn, an Air Force vet.

    Firefighter wasn’t as close a match, with a score of 81 and a significant gap in the knowledge category. Esposito clicked on the Training tab, and found two colleges within 50 miles of Haverhill - Quincy College and Massasoit Community College - that offer a fire science class that would help improve his employment potential in that field. Another click revealed the start dates and times of the class. Police officer was a perfect match for Esposito’s skills, and the site showed an open job in Windham, N.H., within his salary range, then took him to the job listing on


    At the end of the session, the program produced a page listing all the searches Esposito had saved, complete with job openings and the websites of training programs.

    Vets and other job seekers who sign up for the TORQ program at a career center can continue using it at home; soldiers who are serving overseas can start a TORQ search while they are still deployed.

    The system can point people in directions they might not have considered, says Eric Nelson, the veterans employment representative at the Lawrence career center who served almost 24 years in the Army. An infantryman who has experience planning military operations, for instance, could transfer those skills to a job with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “It opens up other avenues where people can look at where their skills can cross into an industry they never thought they could work in,’’ he says. “We’ve had some people who have been, like, ‘Oh wow, I never knew I could do that.’ ’’

    Katie Johnston is a Globe reporter. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.