The medical device industry’s push to get more returning military veterans involved in med-tech has some fuel for its launch this fall.
The MedTech Veterans Program’s "Boot Camp for Returning Heroes" picked up $50,000 in matching grants from private industry and Massachusetts.
Danvers, Mass.-based medical device company Abiomed (NSDQ:ABMD) led the way with a $25,000 grant, which was matched by another $25,000 from the Mass. Life Sciences Center, a quasi-public agency responsible for promoting the life sciences industry in the Bay State. The agency increased the amount from $15,000, which was announced Tuesday.
The matching grants were announced at a special luncheon in Boston Tuesday afternoon to promote the AdvaMed 2012 conference.
Kevin Blanchard, a former Marine and a decorated veteran of the most recent war in Iraq, said the program was essential to helping veteran’s gain a foothold in private industry.
"The current unemployment rate for veterans is about 12.7% and for veterans between the ages of 18 to 24, it’s around 30%," Blanchard said.
Blanchard is the inspiration for the program, which puts special emphasis on veteran’s who have been wounded in combat. He lost his left leg in a roadside bomb in Iraq during a tour of duty in 2005. However, he caught the attention of Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Abiomed CEO Michael Minogue at last year’s AdvaMed conference, where he laid out the challenges young veterans face in returning home. That conversation became the impetus for the AdvMed program, which will act as an on-boarding program for military veterans and wounded soldiers, sailors and Marines designed to ease their entry into medical device companies.
The AdvaMed program, unveiled at the MassDevice Big 100 Roundtable East last month, is slated to enroll its first class of about 25 vets this fall at AdvaMed’s medical device conference in Boston. There are several slots available for returning vets.
"The military had transition assistance program, which is 2 days," he said. "You can imagine being in military combat and you’re given 2 days to understand a completely different life. … That doesn’t prepare you very well. A lot of these guys have never thought about building a resumé or submitting a cover letter."
The inaugural class will go through a 3-day boot camp and orientation program in October, where they’ll receive an overview of the medical device industry, tips on how to land jobs and internships at medical device companies and advice on workplace behavior, skill translation, resumés, interview techniques and career transition. The veterans will then be assigned mentors from the med-tech industry, who will assist in building a network of contacts. Special consideration will be given to veterans who’ve been injured in combat.
About 15 firms, including Abiomed (NSDQ:ABMD), Baxter (NYSE:BAX), Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX), Covidien (NYSE:COV), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Edwards Lifesciences (NYSE:EW) are backing the program. Many have ex-military members in leadership positions.