Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting service members and their families who make great sacrifices to protect our country. During a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a military base 20 miles south of Seattle, Howard and I learned something that left a powerful impression on us: Soldiers were as concerned about finding meaningful employment once they left the military as they were about being deployed. They shared how daunting this period of transition can be—from finding housing, to not having the day-to-day camaraderie of other service members and their families, to starting a second career.
Service members leave our nation’s military with diverse experiences and competencies, and tremendous potential that make them ideal candidates for civilian jobs. Unfortunately, employers may not always recognize the transferable skills that veterans offer—including impressive work ethics, leadership and strategic problem-solving abilities. And often, service members struggle to translate what they did in the military to civilian jobs.
At the Schultz Family Foundation, we support programs that helps service members and their families successfully transition to civilian life. Hiring Our Heroes’ Corporate Fellowship Program is one such effort that has been particularly successful. Developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the program provides service members and their spouses with professional training and hands-on experience in the civilian workforce with companies such as Amazon, Boeing, McKinstry, Prudential, and Starbucks. Service members and spouses are matched with companies looking for skilled professionals, then undergo on-the-job training augmented by weekly educational sessions with the rest of their cohort.
The fellowship bridges the military and civilian divide by building on the skills service members learned from the military and providing the tools to help them effectively navigate the culture of the civilian workforce. The end result? Meaningful employment for the service member and a value add to employers. And a successful transition translates to workplace retention. Of the 2017 cohort, 90% of Fellows were still with their companies after a year—an important statistic since nearly half of all veterans leave their post-military position within a year.
In 2018, Hiring Our Heroes placed 726 service members, veterans and military spouses in fellowships across the country. With a job offer rate post-fellowship of 92 percent and an average salary of $88,000, it’s clear this program is having a real impact for those who served our country and the companies who hire them. Thorin Parris, for example, was able to translate the experience he gained during his Army career into a fellowship with Johnson & Johnson, which ultimately lead to a full-time role with the company as a lead supervisor for the North American education team.
As one participant said about transitioning to the civilian workforce, “This program does so much to help us understand the corporate environment and the skills we acquired in the military that we can bring to the table."
You can learn more about Hiring Our Heroes, its Corporate Fellowship Program and other efforts at HiringOurHeroes.org