Are employers finally helping crack veteran hiring crisis? - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Are employers finally helping crack veteran hiring crisis?

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By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

A veteran-employment slump dubbed "a national disgrace" in March has veered from pontification and promises to a true hiring push as 117,000 ex-members of the U.S. military and their spouses gained work during the past year, according to a report published Monday.

Those filled jobs were spread among 185 companies that earned spots on the 2014 ranking of America's most "military-friendly employers," as assessed and compiled by Victory Media and released to NBC News.

"These are the folks that have built the right programs to recruit transitioning service members and their spouses," said Sean Collins, vice president of Victory Media and a former U.S. Navy pilot. "The hiring done by our (listed) companies very likely covers vast preponderance of the folks hired from the military community. These are not pledges. These companies are providing solutions."

The annual list, to be published in the December edition of G.I. Jobs magazine, is led for the second consecutive year by San Antonio-based USAA, a financial-services outfit created in 1922 by Army officers as a mutual insurance company. Other companies grabbing top-10 spots include Verizon Communications, Booz Allen Hamilton, Union Pacific Railroad and AlliedBarton Security Services. The rankings are calculated and weighted based on surveys completed by the businesses. Results are checked by Ernst & Young LLP.

Competition to find a foothold in the top 100 was more fierce than in past years — a sign of the heightened investment employers are injecting into snapping up younger veterans, Collins said. He points out that 85 companies didn't make the top-100 cut yet still have military-jobs programs that Victory Media found worthy of special mention — up from 54 such also-rans on the 2013 list.

One veteran who embodies the trend lines is Salvador Rances, an ex-combat engineer who served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. After exiting the Army in 2005, he worked in construction and waited tables while hunting for his career break. He attended networking and resume-writing workshops offered by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), an advocacy group.

On Sept. 3, Rances finally went professional, starting as a regulations analyst at the New York Stock Exchange. 

"There's a lot of emphasis on hiring the veterans. That's a good thing. But still a lot could be done," said Rances, 34.

"My brother, Ernesto (Rances), is an Iraq (Army) veteran and, just like me (previously), he has a back-up job as a security guard. He's been trying to get another job for the last two, three years," Salvador Rances said. "The opportunities are there. It's just a matter of helping veterans take their (military-duty) descriptions and bridging them to the job they want. It's not easy but it's possible." 

The military's Afghanistan pullout in 2014, coupled with the larger downsizing of U.S. armed forces, will keep the veteran-job market "tumultuous" for another decade, said Paul Rieckhoff, chief executive officer and founder of IAVA. He called the latest unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans - 10.1 percent - "too high." 

"Yes, the landscape has changed. If you don't have a veterans-employment program, you are now the exception," Rieckhoff said. "We've seen some industry leaders drive this (issue) to the front of the queue," citing Google, Cisco Systems and LinkedIn plus the White House "Joining Forces" initiative.

"Over time, companies will realize hiring veterans is not a charitable move, it's a business-development investment. These folks are hardwired to do well in business," Rieckhoff said. "Employers have to understand a veteran is not just your next security guard. A veteran could be your next Mark Zuckerberg."


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