Returning from combat and looking for a job is a daunting task.
Positions in the private sector have become much more elusive than they were when the wars began in the early 2000s, plus many companies still have an anti-military bias. But with all the roadblocks in the job search, there are a growing number of opportunities for America’s returning heroes.
“There are fewer jobs, but there are more initiatives to hire people from the military,” said Holly Mosack, director of military recruiting for Advanced Technology Services.
Today, organizations are given federal tax breaks and other incentives to hire veterans. Also, more and more companies — including employment giants such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Waste Management — have targeted veterans in their recruitment strategies.
Mosack related that when she came home from Iraq in 2005 after serving as a captain in the Army, the private sector had done little to attract veterans into the civilian workforce. “When I was out there, hiring veterans was more of an afterthought,” she said. Even today, she continued, veterans comprise less than 10 percent of the workforces at the so-called “pro-military” companies. But she’s happy to see more attention being paid to the problem.
One of the men on the front lines of this trend is Michael McNelis, the director of sales and marketing at Training Camp, a type of private sector “boot camp” that teaches people information technology services that prepare them for high-tech jobs and certifications for Cisco, Microsoft and Comptia programs. “About two years ago we got a lot of requests from veterans,” McNelis said. He informed his company about the untapped potential of this growing labor source, and he said everyone seemed surprised as if they had never thought of it. “Everybody looked at one another like I had 10 heads,” he said.
But Training Camp heeded McNelis’s call to action and the company began targeting veterans with its Stepping Stone and Valor programs. Today, about 30 percent of the programs’ graduates are from the military.
McNelis said that a veteran typically makes for a perfect employee because of his focus, attention to details and intense discipline. While he often comes out of the armed services with a degree of electrical and mechanical know-how, McNelis said he's extremely willing, and capable of learning a much more advanced skill set involving private sector software.
As the wars wind down and troops come home, the demand for such training programs is increasing, McNelis continued, “a pretty sizable increase over the past several months. We’ve been working with a lot of vets who’ve exhausted their benefits.”
Other companies, colleges and government departments are offering varying programs designed at retraining and re-acclimating soldiers into civilian careers; however, not all programs are accepted by the GI Bill of Rights. “Make sure you check with your exit officer,” McNelis said, adding that often a veteran isn’t familiar with her financial limitations.