A program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The search for military talent doesn’t start in California and end in Maryland. Sometimes the search takes Hiring Our Heroes partners to Japan or Italy.
Every year, hundreds of overseas service members transition out of the military at the same time their household goods are shipped from Germany or Guam. During their three-year OCONUS tour, they learned to drive on the opposite side of the road and they memorized the words to every AFN commercial, but they may not have had the opportunity to make connections with future employers in the United States.
Simply, their transition experience was complicated by their overseas assignment.
“This population deserves the same transition experience as their counterparts stateside, but the truth is that it’s more difficult to transition overseas,” said Joe Wallis, Director of Military Engagement at Microsoft.
Challenges like a 12-hour time difference and an FPO address are burdens that our transitioning service members face when attempting to connect with employers located on a different continent.
“If you are transitioning while overseas, there is a little more uncertainty in the process. Thankfully, Hiring Our Heroes has done a good job of putting these people at ease when they transition,” Wallis said.
Since 2014, Hiring Our Heroes has hosted Career Summits at overseas military installations. In 2019, nearly 3,000 job seekers attended one of five OCONUS Career Summits in Japan, Italy, Germany, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii.
“Each and every day, businesses come up to me and say, ‘I want to hire veterans. Where are they?’” said Marnie Holder, Director of Veteran Programs at Hiring Our Heroes. “And they will go to great lengths to find veterans. There’s no doubt about that. They want veteran talent in their workforces because they understand the quality and value of veterans.”
In this situation, the great lengths to identify military talent includes international travel. Our Veteran Employment Advisory Council members battle jet leg for the opportunity to make an in-person first impression with transitioning service members eager to secure post-military employment.
“We hired six that have already come to work for us and we hired another six that will come directly to work for us when they transition out of the service. We have five more that are considering joining our team after they transition,” said Stephanie Metzler, Director of Development at the Mears Group.
Steven Janke, Military Talent Attraction Case Manager at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, encourages Wisconsin-based businesses that want to engage with service members and their families as part of their talent engagement strategies to attend Hiring Our Heroes’ OCONUS Career Summits.
“A core pillar of the Mission Wisconsin program is to meet with service members and their families where they are as they begin the transition process, even if it’s halfway across the globe,” Janke said.
OCONUS Careers Summits are more than hiring events for employers.
“While Amazon definitely looks at these events as opportunities to bring in veterans to our stateside roles, the bigger goal is to show that Amazon is committed to our military families overseas and appreciates their sacrifices,” said Beau Higgins, Senior Manager of Military Talent Acquisition at Amazon. “Military members stationed overseas face an additional layer of hurdles that their CONUS-based peers do not have to navigate. Being present and engaged overseas demonstrates the commitment Amazon has to veterans and military spouses all around the globe.”
Each two-day Career Summit features interactive and informative panel discussions, recruiter training, and facilitated discussions focused on improving competitive employment for service members, veterans, and military spouses.
“There’s a bit of recruiting, but since many folks have a year or two before they transition out of the military, we use the summits as an opportunity to promote the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) program,” said Wallis, a former Marine who was stationed at Camp Foster on Okinawa.
Launched in 2013, MSSA is an 18-week on-site training in cloud development, cloud administration, cybersecurity administration, or database and business intelligence administration for transitioning service members and veterans. The nationwide program is available at 14 locations in nine regions, including one at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
Career Summit attendees, job seekers and employers, also attend networking receptions and hiring fairs. These events provide opportunities for employers to listen to transitioning service members discuss their post-military career plans.
“One of the interesting discoveries for me during these summits was the number of transitioning veterans that wanted to stay overseas when they completed their transitions,” Higgins said. “This has pushed Amazon to look at ways to be able to expand overseas opportunities for transitioning veterans.”
These candid conversations are beneficial to Amazon in trying to understand the challenges that military spouses face when living overseas.
“Our team was focused not only on identifying transitioning military talent to include military spouses, but also on providing training to military families on entrepreneurship and how to potentially utilize Amazon as an e-commerce platform. Our focus on veteran and military spouse entrepreneurship is a new initiative in 2019 and the overseas summits provided us an opportunity to share this information with potential customers,” Higgins said.
The value of these events is as much about showing that Amazon cares about our military stationed overseas as it is about accessing a somewhat isolated pipeline of military talent, Higgins added.
“The OCONUS Career Summits are a great way for companies to demonstrate their true commitment to overseas hiring. These overseas service men and women don’t have many of the same opportunities that their peers back home do and we owe it to them to support as best we can to facilitate their transition into corporate America,” he said.
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A Program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation