Though the overall unemployment rate for veterans was under 5% in January 2020, success varies for veterans looking for jobs upon their return (Department of Labor). Some may face challenges translating their experience into civilian careers, need additional education to enter the career of their choice, or need support to start their own ventures (US Census). Whatever the path, veterans will need skill development and higher education opportunities, as well as support and guidance to take the next best step for them.
Our panel will explore the labor market potential for veterans, higher education and skill development opportunities and discuss how veterans’ skillsets are suited for leadership and entrepreneurship.
- Dr. René Cintrón, Chief Education and Training Officer, Louisiana’s Community and Technical Colleges
- Lauren Lobrano, Director of PVA Veterans Career Program, Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Lisa Romano-Arnold, Director of Business Development, Excelsior College
- Lt. Col. Michael Zacchea USMC, Co-Founder and Director of Government Relations, U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce
Jacqueline Arnold, Director of Strategic Relationships, Saylor Academy
Dr. Rene Cintron, Chief Education and Training Officer, Louisiana’s Community and Technical Colleges
Dr. Cintrón is a proud father of three daughters. He serves as the Chief Education and Training Officer with Louisiana’s Community & Technical Colleges (LCTCS), a public, multi-institution system serving a diverse student population seeking workforce development training, academic programs of study, and the high school equivalency. The 12 independently accredited institutions collectively serve 145,000 students, transfer 14,000 students, and graduate 33,000 individuals, annually. Dr. Cintrón directs statewide leadership in academic affairs, adult education, institutional effectiveness, manufacturing extension, student services, and workforce development. He finds it exciting to be part of the team that supports an equitable and inclusive environment in which students can be successful from pre-application through post-graduation.
Dr. Cintrón has focused on accelerating the student experience with tools leading students to achieving their educational goals in a timely manner, such as data exchange, short-term credentials, compressed programs, prior learning assessments, and co-requisite scheduling. These and other efforts have led to a record-breaking graduating class from 19,810 in 2014 to 33,428 in 2020 encompassing a significant growth in short term credentials and a class comprised a 7% increase in minority students graduating primarily of African American and Hispanic backgrounds.
Prior to LCTCS, Dr. Cintrón held various positions at Delgado Community College in New Orleans: Instructor of Business, Assistant Dean of Business and Technology, and Executive Director of Planning and Research. I began my professional career working with Habitat for Humanity. He served in the U.S. Air Force in Emergency Management as an instructor and program manager. Dr. Cintrón grew up in Puerto Rico and holds a Ph.D. in Organization and Management. Through a variety of institutions and consulting efforts, He has been involved in curriculum development and teaching in the military, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate-level; in-person, online, and blended environments.
Lauren Lobrano, Director, PVA Veterans Career Program, Paralyzed Veterans of America
Lauren is the director of PVA Veterans Career Program at Paralyzed Veterans of America. The Veterans Career Program (formerly called PAVE) was launched in 2007 to ensure that PVA members, veterans with catastrophic or significant disabilities, their spouses and caregivers, have access to meaningful employment, educational and volunteer opportunities. The program consists of a team of vocational rehabilitation counselors and employment analysts who work one-on-one with our clients to evaluate transferable skills, assist them with requesting workplace accommodations, help them find positions that build on their experience and interests, and build the confidence they need to be successful in their positions.
Lauren held other positions supporting the military and veteran communities including serving as the Director of Operations for Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, as the International Programs Director for Wounded Warrior Project, leading programs aiding wounded warriors and medical staff in US military communities overseas, and as the Manager for Policy and Program Development with the American Red Cross’ Service to the Armed Forces Department.
Prior to transitioning to the non-profit space, Lauren held several positions in the Executive and Legislative branches of the government, including as the Deputy to the Associate Director for Legislative Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget and for a Member of Congress.
Dr. Lisa Romano-Arnold, Director, Business Development, Excelsior College
Dr. Lisa Romano-Arnold has served in the field of higher education for nearly 25 years, focusing much of her career to changing traditional college practices to better serve the needs of working adult students, specially community college and veteran students. She spent over 12 years at University of Maryland University College (UMUC), creating pathways and student services to better serve the needs of veterans and community college transfer students. While at UMUC, she helped grow UMUC’s community college program to become the #1 transfer institution in the state along with creating significant policy reform and innovative institutional practices. Dr. Romano-Arnold earned her doctorate of management from UMUC. She joined the Excelsior College team of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances in 2015 where she oversees veteran, corporate, and association partnership development.
Lt. Col. Michael Zacchea USMC, Co-Founder and Director of Government Relations, US Veterans Chamber of Commerce
Mike Zacchea was commissioned in the Marine Corps in 1990. He deployed to Somalia for OPERATION RESTORE HOPE and to Haiti for OPERATION SUPPORT DEMOCRACY. He served two tours on recruiting duty. He commanded two artillery batteries and served as a battalion assistant operations officer. In March 2004, as a major, he deployed to Iraq for OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM II. His mission was to build, train, and lead in combat the first Iraqi army battalion trained by the US military. After an initial 4-month training period, he led the Iraqi battalion in combat operations for 8 months. The battalion participated in OPERATION PHANTOM FURY, the 2nd Battle of Fallujah. During the battle, Mike was wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade. As a result of his wounds, Mike has been medically retired. Mike’s military awards include the Bronze Star Medal (with Valor device) (with a gold star in lieu of a second award), the Purple Heart Medal, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, a Combat Action Ribbon, and numerous unit and campaign awards. Mike was also the first and at the time only American recognized by the Iraqi government by the Order of the Lion of Babylon.
In 2009, Mike founded the UConn Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans, through which he has helped veterans start more than 170 businesses producing more than $150 million in gross revenues. Mike helped form a non-profit organization of military advisers in 2006 to help more than 6000 Iraqi interpreters immigrate to the United States, known nationally as Netroots: the List Project. He served on a multi-agency cross-disciplinary working group chaired by the CT Dept of Veterans Affairs focusing on veteran reintegration, education, training, and workforce re-entry issues.
Mike founded the US Veterans Chamber of Commerce in 2016, a non-profit with chapters serving veteran-owned businesses nationwide. Mike also serves on the veteran’s committee of Newman’s Own Foundation. Mike was appointed to the Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs for the Small Business Administration in 2015, and in 2018 became the Chairman and was re-appointed to a three-year term, advising the Administrator on policies and issues affecting more than 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses producing more than $1.2 trillion in GDP. In 2020, Mike joined the National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship as its inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Mike earned an MBA from the School of Business at the University of Connecticut.