New Jersey veterans struggling to find business opportunities can take the educational or vocational training route to career success through a new post-secondary scholarship program, launched today by first lady Mary Pat Christie's New Jersey Heroes nonprofit.
The Heart of a Hero Scholarship program — initiated by a $100,000 donation from Walmart Stores Inc. — will award to 10 veterans a $10,000 scholarship to pursue a degree at any accredited university or vocational training school, in time for the 2012-13 academic year.
"My biggest concern for veterans' business development is they're coming back from service with (post-traumatic stress disorder) and traumatic brain injury, so they don't fit into the conventional working mold and they don't have the capabilities of maintaining traditional employment," said Edward Haddock, the veterans business development officer for the Small Business Administration's New Jersey district office. "Entrepreneurship is a way for them to learn to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining. For veterans to grasp it as a career, having the educational framework is really where success is started."
Haddock said scholarship programs like Heart of a Hero introduce veterans to business development resources attached to the state's higher education institutions, which provide "an entrepreneurial education in government contracting, procurement and certifications for veteran-owned small businesses … increas(ing) veterans' chances of business success."
To help veterans in New Jersey obtain procurement opportunities, Haddock said he will launch a program in the fall aimed at connecting veteran-owned small businesses to federal contracting agencies and prime contractors, since "in the past, agencies struggled to meet the 3 percent set-aside contracting requirements for those businesses."
"Veterans have an immense opportunity coming out of service with problem solving and following specific frameworks and models — which are both skills that entrepreneurs and business owners have," Haddock said. "But the largest benefit that comes in entrepreneurial success is usually grounded in education."
Veterans interested in the program can complete an application online at www.newjerseyheroes.org before July 20.