When Grant Smith returned from active duty as a U.S. Infantryman in the Marine Corps, he was concerned about finding a job. He had been in the military since the age of 18 and, having been a rifleman, he did not believe he had any marketable skills that would lead him to a job with a future. Smith’s sergeant told him about a trade fair in Columbus, Ohio, in which potential employers would be available to interview veterans for a variety of jobs in the area. At the trade fair, Smith met Chad Muth, president of Muth & Co. Roofing, Westerville, Ohio, and was hired as an installer in the spring of 2013.
Fast-forward two years and Smith is now a field supervisor.
It was a win-win for Smith and Muth, and it was all thanks to the Hiring Our Heroes program.
Hiring Our Heroes is a national initiative administered by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Washington, D.C. Its mission is to help veterans, active service members and their spouses transition back into the workforce through a series of hiring fairs held throughout the country, as well as through an online process. To date, more than 850 fairs have been held with 35,000 employers participating, including businesses of all sizes, as well as government and nonprofits. The program also offers employment workshops, résumé reviews and career coaching.
The initiative began four years ago as a response to the gap between businesses looking for skilled workers and those returning from the military with no idea where to look for employment. Job seekers and potential employers may attend hiring fairs at no charge.
“That is one thing that makes the program stand out and makes it so successful—small- and medium-sized businesses can come. A lot don’t have recruiters or HR, but they want to hire a vet, a quality worker,” says Kim Morton, communications manager for Hiring Our Heroes.
Though the numbers are not updated daily, Morton says her team has been able to track 25,000 hires made through the hiring fairs, and those are only from employers reporting back to the program.
The draw for employers is multifold. “Most employers are there because they know they’re going to get a quality employee,” Morton notes. “[Veterans] have had years of discipline and dedication. They know how to stay until the job is done and know how to problem solve; that is the No. 1 skill employers are looking for.”
In addition, Morton adds, veterans know how to work in flexible and uncertain conditions and can be resourceful to get the job done. “Once [a company] hires a vet, they want more, so we see employers coming time and time again,” she says.
Although the fairs are open to veterans of any era, Morton says the majority who attend are post-9/11 vets because their unemployment rate consistently has been higher than the national unemployment average. “For veterans under age 25, those numbers are closer to 20 percent. Those are the ones we see come to events the most,” Morton states.
In addition to in-person fairs, employers and veterans can find each other via online tools, such as a jobs portal and an employer best practices site, within the Hiring Our Heroes website. “Our goal is to ensure veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses are able to utilize our resources to connect with employers no matter where they are in the world,” Morton remarks.
PHOTO: MUTH & CO. ROOFING