CAMDEN, N.J. — According to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, half of all youth admit they know little to nothing about military service and that the military is facing the most challenging labor market since the inception of the all-volunteer force.
In order to expose more middle and high school students to the benefits of the military as a possible post secondary plan, Camden Academy Charter High School sponsored its inaugural Military Night program on November 12.
“The idea stemmed from talking about expanding our mission to not only being a ‘college’ school,” Christina Shephard, Student Activities Coordinator, said. “We also discussed having a trades night as well to allow students who are not interested in going the traditional college path an opportunity to explore other options.”
Along with the challenges of recruitment for military, skilled labor reports that forty-five percent of employers are struggling to fill skilled positions according to a 2018 Talent Shortage Survey conducted by the Manpower Group.
The event hosted recruiters from five branches of the military — Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, National Guard.
“Having all of the recruiters there was extremely valuable as well,” Shephard said.
Camden Academy senior Shauna Lopez agreed. “I liked being able to talk to multiple branches of the military at once,” Lopez said.
Lopez sees several advantages of joining the military. “I see a lot of benefits from the military. For one, they can pay for college and health insurance,” she said. “They take care of you.”
Lopez says that while she is still interested in the military as a possible direction after high school graduation, she has not made up her mind yet. “I’m still afraid I’d get a little homesick,” she said.
There was also a panel discussion where students and families were able to ask questions and hear the experiences of former alumni along with current staff who have served.
“The original timing for the event was 6 to 7 because I thought after the panel, people would start to leave,” Shephard said. “But once we allowed them to just go around to each recruiter, I saw some great conversations happening. The event didn’t end until 8.”
One such conversation seemed particularly poignant and eye-opening to Shephard.
“There was a young lady who asked one of the panelists how she felt being not only female and joining the Army but being an African American female,” Shephard said. “I thought that was a great question especially for the number of female students that were in attendance.”
Also on the panel were twin brothers Jordan and Jordi Torres, seniors at Camden Academy. Jordan has already enlisted for the Army back in September and Jordan plans to officially enlist by January.
“I’ve been interested in the military since about 8th grade,” Jordan said. “I didn’t want my parents to go into debt paying for college, so I started looking for other ways to pay for an education.”
Jordi said he was impressed by seeing so many who he thought had no thought of joining the military.
“I was surprised to see how many people came out, how many people are interested in the military,” Jordi said.
The Torres brothers plan on shipping out to Fort Benning in Georgia this June.
“I think students left with a greater understanding of what the military is, what the purpose is of each branch, and what opportunities each branch offers,” Shephard said.
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