In forest products, we are concerned about a diminishing number of young people looking for work—in logging, forest products trucking, forestry field-work, and forest products manufacturing. Our attention is drawn first to the Veterans community because of what we know of veterans’ training and skill sets, which in many cases seem to fill gaps in our sector.
Q: What specific technical skill gaps in the forestry and logging sector might we look to U.S. military Veterans, transitioning to civilian life, to fill?
A: Many Veterans have training and experience in high-value skills such as truck driving, heavy equipment operation, as mechanics and electricians, and in technical tasks such as surveying. However, the typical skill-set goes beyond technical skills.
Q: In what way?
A: Veterans’ training and experience affect the basic ways they contribute to an organization’s success. Typically, a veteran is “mission-driven,” knows how to take responsibility, likes working as a team, and doesn’t require close supervision to be accountable. Many have supervisory potential. In general, as employees, Veterans will be:
- Agile and adaptive
Q: How can an employer in our sector tap into this talent?
A: Veterans have a lot to give, but they also have expectations from employers. A Veteran will look for a sense of “mission” in an employer and—lacking that—may lose morale and look elsewhere for employment. Before approaching the Veterans community, it is wise to examine one’s business, evaluate it not just as “Veteran-friendly” but as “Veteran-ready.”
Q: What makes a “Veteran-ready” workplace?
A: A Veteran will be attracted to an employer that has consistent policies and procedures, that communicates plans clearly; and listens well. A Veteran will expect a thorough orientation and an understanding of growth and promotion opportunities. A mentoring program will be very useful, and if an employer already has another well-performing Veteran on staff, that individual will have a role to play in “on-boarding” the newcomer.
Q: Anything to avoid?
A: Be alert to avoiding “myths” about Veterans—if you approach a potential Veteran hire with negative preconceptions (“bureaucratic,” “rigid,” and so on), that will affect the potential hire’s confidence in your judgment and leadership.
Q: What else would a new Veteran employee expect?
A: Veterans generally will value a strong connection to your community and will look for ties outside your workplace to connect to—local organizations and community service programs and projects. You know your community—be ready to introduce it to any Veteran considering working for you who is new to the community.
Q: Are there additional resources for making my workplace “veteran-ready”?
A: FRA is working with the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations NAVSO, www.NAVSO.org) to help employers in our sector evaluate opportunities for bringing veterans into the forestry workforce. NAVSO offers contracting services to help clients evaluate their organizations and to help them develop messaging and cultural changes to build a “veteran-ready” brand.