2021 NASWA Veterans Conference Highlights

For the second year in a row, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) rose to the challenge of hosting a virtual conference with the 2021 NASWA Veterans Conference held on July 28-30, 2021. The program agenda was expanded from the 2020 event and covered a robust range of topics over three days. Over 1,350 people attended the event from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Management Concepts was proud to return as a Gold Sponsor while also representing the National Veterans’ Training Institute (NVTI). NVTI is a program of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) and was established in 1986 to further develop and enhance the professional skills of veterans employment and training service providers throughout the United States. Management Concepts is honored to be the current NVTI contract holder.

Three themes were prominent throughout the conference agenda: connecting veterans with rewarding civilian careers, veteran entrepreneurship, and serving underserved and disadvantaged veterans.

Opening Remarks

Following the opening ceremonies, officials from DOL gave a comprehensive overview with updates and new developments in veterans employment programs. One of many noteworthy moments was the announcement of the Veterans’ Employment Challenge winner, eightfold.ai. The challenge’s goal was to develop a job-matching tool that will be piloted in a Transition Assistance Program Employment Workshop at a small number of base locations throughout the United States. This pilot will launch in the fall of 2021.

DOL also shared that the HIRE Vets Medallion program has seen a 27% increase in applications over the past year. The HIRE Vets Medallion Award is the only federal-level veterans’ employment award recognizing a company or organization’s commitment to veteran hiring, retention, and professional development.

What’s New at NVTI

As in previous years, Management Concepts was honored to continue the tradition of presenting the popular session “What’s New at the National Veterans’ Training Institute.” Maria Temiquel, Director, Grants & Training at DOL VETS, was joined by Dr. Hannah Toney, Program Manager and Curriculum Director for NVTI, and Jillian Fasser, Deputy Program Manager for the NVTI Program at Management Concepts. They shared the many new and exciting additions to NVTI’s resources and answered questions from the audience. Podcasts, microlearning, webinars, and a Community of Practice keep NVTI students up to date in professional skills and recent developments in their field. Many are available to the public on the NVTI website. In addition to these products and courses, another highlight of the program is a new certificate program for NVTI students.

NVTI Innovations 2021 from Management Concepts on Vimeo.

Civilian Career Strategies

Throughout the Veterans Conference, the most recurrent theme was supporting veterans not just with making the transition to a civilian career but also with transitioning to the civilian career that is right for them. Whether using G.I. bills to pursue additional education or enrolling in a registered apprenticeship, breakout sessions addressed how various programs meet those needs to provide the best support for successful career opportunities.

In the session “Job Vulnerability, Gateway Jobs and Decision Process Management: Guiding Veterans and Transitioning Service Members to Better Career Decisions,” PAIRIN’s Director of I/O Psychology, Dan Hawthorne, explained the PAIRIN Job Outlook Index (JOI), which provides insights into the trends in a variety of job industries, including the projected number of jobs in the coming years and current and future wages. Mr. Hawthorne summarized these job outlooks into vulnerable jobs, gateway jobs, and bright outlook jobs. These insights provide a strategy and direction for the transitioning service member who may be uncertain of which career path makes the most sense for them to explore. This no-cost software is available at the state and national level, with different filters to choose from. The current system relies on manual data entry, with the future goal to create automatic data extraction.

Veteran Entrepreneurship

Three workshops on entrepreneurship provided a wealth of information to veterans seeking to start or grow their businesses. Services and programs for veterans and military spouses seeking to start a small business are available through the Small Business Administration, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and organizations like Fiserv and Dog Tag, Inc. These workshops covered franchising, buyer and seller options, and how to become a self-employed 1099 contractor. Current veteran entrepreneurs also shared their own stories of what it took to pivot their businesses during the pandemic and the resources they used during their journey.

Serving the Underserved and Disadvantaged

In the session “Serving Incarcerated Veterans,” Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Workforce Development – Veterans’ Employment Services (VES) Regional Manager Joe Swyrtek and Veterans Career Advisor Steve McLane described their re-employment workshop initiative and metrics in several Michigan correctional facilities.

These workshops aim to present an opportunity for the incarcerated veteran to learn what VES offers and the services available at local Michigan Works! Association which is similar to the Department of Veterans Affairs Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Workshops cover basic job search skills, such as resume creation and interview techniques, and how to overcome larger impediments to employment that these veterans may face after their release.

The goal for the future is to expand this program into more prisons and parole and probation offices, train additional staff and add digital workshops and all-day seminars.

Special Recognition

In the plenary session “Honoring Women in Service,” Robin Johnson, Vice President of Development from the Military Women’s Memorial, shared the memorial’s history, virtual programming, and their support to women and veteran Employee Resource Groups.

The presentation of the Mark Sanders Award for Exceptional Service was another highlight of the event. The 2021 award was presented to Kansas Local Area II West for their virtual service priority to veterans.

Other sessions also covered the unique circumstances and challenges of military families.


Three insightful and inspirational keynote speakers took center stage during the conference. The first of these speakers was Ben Pring, the head of thought leadership at Cognizant and co-founder of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, and a co-author of three best-selling and award-winning books. Mr. Pring addressed the future of work post-pandemic, including changing job landscapes, attitudes toward the return to the office post-pandemic, and the rise of automation.

The second keynote speaker to take the stage was Shannon Huffman Polson, a former U.S. Army officer, corporate leader, and author of The Grit Factor: Courage, Resilience, and Leadership in the most Male-Dominated Industry in the World. In her remarks, she detailed her experiences as one of the first women to fly an Apache attack helicopter, the first woman to command an Apache flight company in the 2d Infantry Division, and the youngest woman to summit Mount Denali. She shared her lessons learned and how to harness one’s inner strength, using that passion to face limitations, embrace a sense of purpose, and become a leader of greatness.

The third morning of the Veterans Conference kicked off with a keynote address by retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne Division. Sgt. Mills is one of only five service members to survive injuries as a quadruple amputee from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as a self-described “Recalibrated Warrior,” Sgt. Mills lives by the motto, “Never give up. Never quit.” His poignant story and indomitable spirit were a moving reminder of the heroism and sacrifices our men and women in uniform make every day.


With so much valuable information and noteworthy moments at the 2021 NASWA Veterans Conference, it is impossible to give every session the credit it deserves. Whether in person or online, the dedication of the veterans’ service professionals shines through in the presentations, attendee chats, awards ceremonies, and networking events.

Management Concepts is honored to have the opportunity to support this important work, and we look forward to what’s next.

Visit our NASWA event page to learn about the powerful partnership between Management Concepts and DOL VETS to operate the National Veterans’ Training Institute and the many ways in which Management Concepts serves those who serve military veterans.

Headshot photo of Vera Medici wearing a flowered shirt with a grey blazer.

Written by:
Vera Medici
Custom Learning Solutions
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