Heroes in Battle, Nation-Builders for Life

Our armed forces are the guardians of our land, water and skies. They are the first responders
in any situation of combat, whether protecting the nation from external threats, maintaining
security and stability during internal conflicts, running international peacekeeping missions, or
countering transnational terrorism. Every society owes an immense debt to its armed forces, as
well as their families, for their heroic sacrifices. Taking care of their needs and safeguarding
their futures must be seen as the foremost duty of any nation.

In India, as in most other countries, a large number of defense staff retire at comparatively
young age s- often in their mid-thirties to mid-forties – because of the need to ensure that
troops remain at optimal levels of fitness and battle-readiness. This is very common in the cases
of non-commissioned or junior commissioned officers. Upon retirement, these personnel
(usually described as ‘veterans’) become pensioners while their personal and familial
responsibilities are still heavy. They are faced with the urgent need to find gainful work in their
civilian lives.

It was in this context that Learning Links Foundation, in partnership with Boeing India,
launched the Veteran Skilling Program in 2019. The goal was to provide suitable re-skilling and
up-skilling for retired or soon-to-retire defense personnel, their spouses, wards, and war
widows, equipping them for productive roles within the current economy. Towards this end,
the program formed strategic associations with existing departments and institutions catering
to the welfare of the veterans and their family members- including Army Welfare Placement
Organization, Air Force Placement Cell, Indian Navy Placement Agency, Navy Wives Welfare
Association, and several defense regiments.

In response to the varied needs of its target groups, the Veteran Skilling Program has developed
a bouquet of training courses, aligned to different sectors such as Aerospace and Aviation,
Healthcare, Government Services, Security Services, Marketing, Green Technologies, and
others. Even during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has
continued to operate through online and hybrid formats.

The program implementation model ensures a balance between theoretical and practical
elements, fully geared towards the latest industry standards. It combines classroom or online

training with practical sessions and project assignments, followed by job placement support or
mentoring for setting up business enterprises. Trainees emerge from the program with not just
domain-specific technical competencies but also the soft skills and attitudes required to
succeed in the twenty-first century economy.

Air force veteran Shakeel Odakkal enthusiastically shares: “This program is doing a great job in
grooming defense veterans for corporate jobs. The skills and knowledge acquired through this
systematic, well-structured and targeted training helped me a lot in securing a managerial
position in Air India Airport Services Limited, soon after the completion of the course. I
recommend each defense veteran to undergo this program to conquer the corporate world.”
Gulabsha, a navy wife, heartily agrees. After completing the entrepreneurship course under the
Veteran Skilling Program at Navy Wives Welfare Association, she has started a business venture
of her own. “Training has helped me in understanding the nuances of starting a business and
working towards planned objectives”, she says. “It gave me the much-needed confidence to
overcome obstacles. I invested my savings to order clothes online, and sold them to neighbors
and other people in the nearby community.” Making a steady profit every month, she is well-
set to recover her initial investment.

Disciplined, experienced, steeped in ideals of patriotism and selfless service, veterans and their
families represent a vast reservoir of talent, commitment and energy. By developing their skills
and facilitating their resettlement, the nation can not only repay its debt to them but also tap
into their potential for its own growth. And, thus, the Veteran Skilling Program continues its
impressive march, enriching its beneficiaries’ capacities to achieve self-reliance and contribute
to the community in meaningful ways.

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