WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 22, 2009) -- The Army Reserve and U.S. Customs and Border Protection formally agreed April 21 to work collaboratively to enhance job opportunities for America's Soldiers and veterans.

The alliance, launched under the Army Reserve Employer Partnership Initiative, will help strengthen the community, support Army Reserve Soldiers and their families, and contribute to a strong economy. The CBP is the first federal agency to join the Army Reserve's Employer Partnership Initiative.

"This formal alliance with U.S. Customs and Border Protection presents a remarkable opportunity for our some 10,200 trained and skilled Army Reserve Soldiers to potentially achieve their career goals with this federal agency," said Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief, Army Reserve. "This formal partnership also sets the standard among other federal agencies and the Army Reserve."

The Army Reserve's Employee Partnership Initiative is an effort by the service to make it easier for civilian companies to hire Reserve Soldiers, and to make it easier for Reserve Soldiers to find jobs with civilian employers willing to hire them, said Col. Dianna Cleven, director of the Army Reserve initiative.

"The way the initiative actually started is that (Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve) said with the operational tempo and the transition to an operational reserve, it was important to have the support of employers, and to go to them and very candidly explain to them what the rotations would be like and to collaborate on the challenges that the employers were facing in trying to support these Soldiers," Cleven said.

Today, there are nearly 300 partnerships between the Army Reserve and civilian employers, including such companies as Cleveland Clinic, Con-Way Freight, IBM, General Electric, ExxonMobil, and BNSF Railway Company. Cleven said that new employers are signing on every day.

"One of the things we wanted to know is what they are looking for out of these partnership agreements," said Cleven. "And we really wanted to make them true partnerships, as opposed to signing a piece of paper and having it be symbolic. We really wanted to collaborate with them on solutions."

Some of those solutions include finding ways to ensure training that given to a Soldier, if applicable, might count toward credentialing needed in the civilian sector.

As part of EPI, jobs available to Soldiers through companies involved in the partnership are searchable through the EPI Web site at http://www.usar.army.mil/arweb/EPI/. The Web site serves as a middle ground for employers willing to hire Soldiers, and Soldiers needing to find work.

"What the partnership has in some ways done is create a meeting space for those Soldiers seeking opportunities and those employers wishing to hire them," Cleven said. "They can meet sort of in a virtual environment."

Today, said Cleven, some 15 percent of the Reserve force is accessing the Web site to browse through available jobs from "military friendly" companies that have entered into a partnership with the Reserve.

(Army News Service correspondent Todd Lopez compiled this report from a Blogger's Roundtable session and U.S. Army Reserve news release.)