In March 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched Hiring Our Heroes to address a national crisis in veteran unemployment. Working with a broad array of private and public sector partners we have seen incredible changes across the workforce landscape creating unprecedented opportunities for our veteran community.
That success, however, doesn’t mean our mission is accomplished. We know that our work continues as we re-shape the American workforce and create economic opportunities for all Americans. We must do more to serve military spouses, under-represented populations in the veteran community, and members of the Guard and Reserve.
As we look to the future here are a few examples of how we are reaching and impacting the broader military community:
Virtual Hiring Events for Veterans and Military Spouses
More than a decade ago, Hiring Our Heroes launched with hiring events at locations throughout the country hosting nearly 800 events in three years. To say that we were good at in-person hiring events would be an understatement.
When the pandemic hit, however, we had to quickly pivot to meet the needs of our constituents by offering virtual hiring events. These events have greatly enhanced our ability to reach deeper into communities across America and the impact has been undeniable.
In 2021 alone, we served more than 13,000 job seekers during close to 200 virtual events providing 750 employers access to members of the military community. Participation of those who register for our virtual hiring events hovers around 80%; 30% higher than what is considered a success by industry standards.
Fellows Program and DoD SkillBridge
The Department of Defense SkillBridge program has dramatically changed the transition landscape for thousands of military members across the country. Our SkillBridge program, the Corporate Fellows Program, provides military members with a 12-week internship prior to their departure from the military. The results speak for themselves.
In 2021, nearly 1,900 active duty service members completed fellowships with military-friendly employers. That program’s average hire rate is 85% and the average salary is $105,000. In interviews with fellows, many describe Hiring Our Heroes’ Corporate Fellows Program (CFP) as an amazing experience, one they highly recommend to their fellow service members.
That’s exactly what Carlos Platero, a Marine assigned to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth told Hiring Our Heroes.
“Like many transitioning service members, my biggest concern is being able to make that transition from the military to civilian life easier,” Platero said. “That’s my biggest concern. And you know, my concern is fading more and more each day as I go through the fellowship.”
“Like many transitioning service members, my biggest concern is being able to make that transition from the military to civilian life easier.”Carlos Platero, U.S. Marine
After his 12-week fellowship, Carlos was hired at Verizon and joined more than 100 CFP graduates hired by Verizon since 2018.
The program also creates incredible opportunities for diverse talent. Because of the diversity within the military community, companies can hire highly qualified candidates that meet their DE&I goals.
Tom Downs, Lead Diversity Recruiting Strategist at Booz Allen Hamilton says it best:
“The people who choose to serve in our military come from every corner of the country, represent every demographic, and have diverse backgrounds and experiences. So, in our experience, you’re inherently finding diverse talent when you source military talent.”
Military Spouse Fellows Program
While we have seen record veteran unemployment rates in our history, military spouses continue to struggle with long-term unemployment challenges. In fact, while most Americans are seeing unemployment rates in the 4% range, military spouses still face an unemployment rate of 22%.
This disparity is part of the reason Hiring Our Heroes has invested so heavily in creating opportunities for military spouses. Our Military Spouse Fellows Program — much like our Corporate Fellows Program — provides internship opportunities for military spouses. That program saw incredible success in 2021 with a 91% hire rate and an average salary of $68,000.
Fellows like Rachel Bertolini, a military caregiver and military spouse living in Denver, illustrate the success of this program.
“My biggest challenge as a military spouse has been trying to find consistency around keeping a job since my resume is all over the place. Hiring Our Heroes was able to put me in front of a lot of people that may not have considered me in the past, given some gap years to take care of my family and my husband who is a disabled veteran,” Rachel said.
Following her six-week fellowship, Rachel was offered and accepted a position at Trace 3, her fellowship host company.
“The fellowship has helped me secure a long-term, full-time, and remote job that provides the flexibility I need to be a caregiver for my husband,” she added.
As this program continues to grow, I have no doubt we will continue to hear more success stories like Rachel’s.
Finally, Career Forward is a new training and work placement program that prepares transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses for employment within in-demand careers. After completing their certificates in high demand business and technical skills, graduates may be hired directly or complete an internship with host companies.
In the first three months of the program, more than 1,555 learners have enrolled. We look forward to seeing the positive outcomes of Career Forward.
Doubling Our Efforts in 2022
In February, the U.S. Department of Labor reported a veteran unemployment rate of 3.1% – the lowest level in two years. This is great news. But I’m not ready to declare “mission accomplished” for Hiring Our Heroes just yet.
We know junior enlisted service members, women veterans, and veterans of color face the most barriers when transitioning to civilian employment.
That is why we are redoubling our efforts with these populations in 2022.