Recognizing The Employment Value Of A Hero
As many employers can attest to, military veterans and their spouses have the right stuff. With special skills and a strong work ethic, they know the meaning of commitment, sacrifice, and honor. These are attributes that make for a superb resume. It is a shame that so much of this talent and character is being wasted.
The average rate of unemployment among post-9/11 veterans for the past 12 months was 10.4%. For vets under 25, the jobless rate in 2011 was a staggering 29% and remains nearly twice the level of their civilian peers. On top of that, more than one in four military spouses is without employment. With 1 million servicemembers and their families slated to reenter the civilian job market in the next five years, this situation threatens to get much worse. That’s why we are working together on a mission called Hiring Our Heroes.
These American patriots, having answered the call of duty for the armed forces, bring unique strengths to the civilian workforce. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Foundation, in partnership with Capital One, has set a goal of finding 500,000 jobs for vets and military spouses by the end of 2014.
The Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign is especially counting on Main Street. The effort includes job fairs in some 400 communities. Small businesses, generators of more than 70% of all American jobs in the last decade, can benefit significantly by welcoming vets and military spouses to their teams.
For those looking for work, the job fairs can offer life-changing differences. In Dearborn, Michigan, an example of one resounding success, the local chamber of commerce joined forces with the mayor to host a fair—73 vets and military spouses landed jobs.
During a fair in St. Louis, Cory Ketchum, a 24-year-old Marine infantryman who had been struggling to find employment won a job with a securities firm.
Through Hiring 500,000 Heroes, businesses across the United States have thus far vowed to provide 165,000 positions to veterans and military spouses by the end of 2014. While some of these pledges come from the nation’s larger employers, others come from small enterprises, including Walker Automotive in Alexandria, Louisiana, and Muth & Company Roofing in Columbus, Ohio.
Capital One, which has committed $4.5 million toward Hiring Our Heroes, believes that hiring veterans presents a powerful business opportunity. Military experience provides an edge that carries over to responsibilities in the civilian workforce, a dynamic that makes companies stronger and more efficient.
Military occupational specialties, including mechanical or computer skills, can translate directly to the private sector. Companies in search of truck drivers, for instance, can find veterans with a wealth of experience in hauling materials and maneuvering rigs.
Hiring Our Heroes helps military families with networking, resume writing, and branding, as well as with melding skills and experiences to write a compelling sales pitch. Job seekers need effective elevator pitches, and veterans have powerful narratives.
And this is not just about courage displayed in a foxhole; it is also about serving as a champion at home. Thousands of military spouses are running households and making ends meet single-handedly, while their partners are deployed halfway around the world.
Being part of the military family, at its core, is to accept and understand that one’s role fits within a larger, united purpose. It is precisely the sort of perspective that successful businesses deem essential.
Veterans and military spouses are problem solvers. They adapt to changing situations. They are accustomed to encountering difficulties. They accept a code of discipline and loyalty. They are task oriented. They work well in teams.
They have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with people whose backgrounds and experiences often differed sharply from their own, an enriching experience for anyone entering a civilian workforce that is growing more diverse. These talents, insights, and experiences strengthen the labor and management ranks in the private sector.
It may be difficult to put a precise value on the qualities of a squad leader, for example, who performed with poise, intelligence, and courage in the hills of Afghanistan. But in an American economy that prizes dependability, resolve, and ingenuity, it would seem certain that these experiences can be put to excellent use on the job.
Kevin Schmiegel, Executive Director, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and 20-year Marine Veteran; John G. Finneran Jr, General Counsel, Capital One; and former Naval Officer.