Will Your Next Employee Come from the U.S. Military?

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Many employers in the forest industry are looking for workers who can show up on time, follow procedures, and pass a drug screening test. At FRA’s Fall Board Meeting we heard from two speakers who made a case for finding these employees by seeking out veterans of the United States military.

In October, Lt. General Howard Bromberg (Retired) and Lieutenant Colonel Keith Wilson spoke to FRA’s Supplier-Consumer Relations Committee about the strengths and capabilities that veterans bring to the workforce, and how our industry can connect with this underutilized resource.

What I learned from their talk:

• Only about two in 10 high school graduates are qualified to join the armed forces. While this is a significant problem for the military, it also means that individuals leaving the service are a select set of individuals and part of a high-quality workforce.

• Veterans are a good fit for private sector employment not only because of their skill sets and training, but also because they are experienced leaders who have been provided the opportunity to build leadership and management skills.

• When you hire a military veteran, you get someone who:
   o Has developed a habit of showing up on time
   o Is used to high standards
   o Is accustomed to responsibility and accountability
   o Has a desire for self-improvement
   o Is experienced working with a team
   o Has passed drug tests – not only at the time of enlistment, but at random intervals throughout their service

• Most veterans leaving the service do not have experience in the civilian workforce, and all parties benefit by recognizing and addressing this. It may be helpful to assign someone (a veteran, if at all possible) to work with newly hired veterans to help them understand issues such as health care choices, expense forms, corporate policies, and other issues they may not have dealt with during their time of military service. This may be less of an issue at smaller firms common in the forest industry, but is still something for employers to be prepared to address.

• The military has trained individuals in many areas of interest to our industry, including:
   o Truck driving
   o Engine repair and maintenance (including diesel engines)
   o Heavy equipment operators
   o Drone operators

• The military has many ways to help companies find, hire and integrate service members into the private sector workforce. These include:
   o The Soldier for Life program, designed to help companies and industries establish veteran’s programs
   o The Career Skills Program, which allows on-the-job training through an internship or apprenticeship during a soldier’s last 180 days of service
   o Through a partnership with the US Chamber of Commerce, the Hire Our Heroes job fairs allow companies to connect with veterans

As the forest industry nationwide looks for new employees and leaders, the U.S. military provides a fantastic resource of trained and qualified individuals. FRA will continue to look for ways to connect our members with veterans, building a strong and experienced pool of talent in the forest industry supply chain.