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Vets in the News

DOL Programs Help Link Military Veterans with Jobs
April 12, 2007
By Bill Leonard

When it comes to recruiting and hiring veterans of the U.S. military, the tough job isn’t convincing employers that veterans usually make great employees. The hard part is finding enough veterans to meet the growing recruitment demand from businesses.

Veterans “not only have excellent job skills and training, they also have a strong work ethic and sense of loyalty,” says Bill Offutt, executive director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s HireVetsFirst campaign.

Offutt says the demand from private-sector employers for hiring veterans has accelerated over the past couple of years.

“Employers understand former military personnel tend to be among their top performers,” Offutt says. “So hiring directly from the military has become an important part of many employers’ recruitment efforts.”

The Labor Department with the HireVetsFirst program, along with industry-specific recruiting programs such as Helmets to Hardhats and Troops to Teachers, have been striving to improve connections between employers and military personnel who are looking to find jobs in the private sector. According to Offutt, approximately 220,000 members of the U.S. military leave active service every year to join the civilian workforce.

“It’s a ready-made pool of talent, and we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the transition from military to civilian life,” Offutt adds.

In March 2007, HireVetsFirst and Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) announced a series of improvements and enhancements to the programs. HireVetsFirst launched a new web site, which features an array of resources and tools for employers that want to recruit and hire veterans. Helmets to Hardhats announced the launch of a similar initiative, but, according to Tom Aiello, vice president for, the launch of the new efforts to connect with both employers and veterans happens to be a fortunate coincidence.

“We didn’t plan it that way, but both web sites are now much more user-friendly and provide some wonderful resources for employers and job seekers,” Aiello says. and Monster Government Solutions, subsidiaries of Monster Worldwide, collaborated with the Center for Military Recruitment, Assessment and Veterans’ Employment to revamp the H2H web site and to create an online resource that employers and job seekers should find easy to use, according to Aiello and other sources.

“We want to be the first place that veterans and employers in the construction industry go, when either looking for a job or posting an opening,” says Darrell Roberts, executive director for Helmets to Hardhats. “We’re talking about top-notch construction jobs that offer training, benefits and a good chance for advancement.”

The Helmets to Hardhats program is a partnership formed by the AFL-CIO’s building and construction trades division, the U.S. Department of Defense, and employer-related groups. Roberts says Helmets to Hardhats not only has improved employment opportunities for veterans but has built a new level of cooperation among organized labor and employers.

“They have the same goal to provide the best work and training opportunities possible,” Roberts says. “And we are seeing some great results from this program.”

Since the H2H refers candidates to employers and provides links from employers and union training programs to candidates without tracking actual recruiting and hiring, Roberts says it is impossible to get an accurate count of veterans who have found jobs through the program. Roberts did say that the anecdotal evidence is very strong and that the program often hears from veterans who have found gainful employment.

“Helmets to Hardhats is a great program to support the men and women that supported their country,” says Tim Banks, a pipefitting apprentice who found his job through H2H. Banks was a Marine who served in Iraq during 2004.

“Training makes all the difference when getting placed into a job that has a great future,” says James Buchanan, business manager for Chicago’s Local 597 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry. “It’s what makes union building trades workers the best in the world, and it’s what gives our members the skills to earn middle-class wages, own homes and provide for their families.”

While a good training program can provide a recruiting advantage, employers interested in tapping into the veterans’ talent pool also use other tactics. Home Depot, for example, uses veterans as corporate recruiters who specialize in targeting military personnel. Employers in communities or states with large military installations also have recruiters who work hard to build relationships with the military community and visit the bases frequently.

“Many employers are taking proactive stances in targeting the military personnel who are in their state, and it works well for them,” says DOL’s Offutt. “Take a state like North Carolina, which has several large military bases, combined with a very strong economy and tight job market. These bases are wonderful recruiting grounds for some of the best skilled and most qualified candidates employers can find.”

Job fairs sponsored by HireVetsFirst and the Center for Military Recruitment can be good way for employers to connect with job applicants. Al Grimes, president of Curtis Engine & Equipment Inc. in Baltimore, says the job fairs have been well worth the effort.

“We just received two very promising resumes at the most recent job fair here in Maryland,” Grimes says. “It’s a highly competitive market hiring veterans, and we use a lot of different sources to find the applicants. The job fairs work well, as does word of mouth.”

According to Grimes, nearly 45 percent of his company’s employees are former military. He says many tell their friends about Curtis Engine and that their reputation as an employer of choice is building in the region.

“We offer highly competitive wages and benefits, and since we have a good number of veterans who work for us, that gives us an edge,” Grimes says. “People who are coming out of the military look for things like that, and we’ve proved through the years that we provide excellent employment opportunities for veterans.”

Bill Leonard is senior writer for HR News.