Servicemen and women need skills and discipline to carry out the critical task of keeping America safe. Those same qualities make them valuable employees when they return home from deployment. Minnesota offers programs designed to help veterans come home to satisfying employment opportunities.
Most civilians can imagine nothing scarier than arriving in Iraq or Afghanistan for a military deployment. But, says Colonel Kevin Gerdes, director of personnel for the Minnesota National Guard, "The end of deployment is a very scary time. Even if the service person is coming home to the same job, they're wondering how it's changed, and whether it's something they'll still want to do."
The Minnesota National Guard's Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program is designed to provide service people with help in reintegrating to civilian life. The program's founder, Chaplain John Morris, says, "The best mental health program we can provide our soldiers is a challenging and satisfying job."
Each of Minnesota's 47 Workforce Centers (www.mnwfc.org) has veterans' employment representatives who can work with employers who are interested in recruiting veterans. The Workforce Centers can also help veterans translate their military skills into civilian terms for use in résumés and job interviews. At www.hirevetsfirst.gov, employers can also get information about recruiting, hiring and training veterans.
Attitude And Skill
Gerdes and other supporters are trying to reach out to "any organization that will listen to the value of hiring a veteran," he says. "They bring value to the organization because of military training and skills they've learned." That value can include training as a combat medic, handling trauma cases or as a truck driver putting in thousands of miles over challenging terrain. In other cases, service people have acquired skills in technical communication, auto-mation and logistics that have civilian applications.
In addition, Gerdes says, veterans bring their employers indirect but tangible benefits like health and fitness, discipline and adherence to structure and procedures.
Jim Finley, program director for Veterans Employment Services, says veterans have the qualities employers always cite as most important: Work ethic and willingness to face new challenges. Finley's advice on hiring veterans: "Hire for attitude. Train for skill."
Veterans Career Fair
May 27 is the date for the third annual Veterans Career Fair, which will be held at the Earle Brown Center. More than 100 employers and service providers are expected to attend this year's event. Employers who provided feedback on last year's event talked about the high quality of the candidates, and some job offers were made on the spot, according to Finley.
For information on the Yellow Ribbon program, contact Colonel Kevin Gerdes:
Laura French is principal of Words Into Action, Inc., and is a freelance writer from Roseville.