At this year’s FRA National Fly-In and Board Meeting, we were fortunate to hear from Mark Toal of the U.S. Department of Labor on how forest industries can work to bring veterans into our industry’s workforce. With Veterans Day here, this is a great opportunity to share what we heard from him, and explore how forest industries can identify and recruit veterans of the armed services.
First, it’s important to understand the demographics of veterans in the workforce. Veterans have a lower unemployment rate than non-veterans, and about 60% of unemployed veterans are 45 years of age or more. There are certainly veterans available to hire – and more separating from the service every month – but the fact is that veterans have the experience, training and work skills that are valued by employers across a broad range of industries. As Toal told us, “All studies indicate it is a good business decision to hire veterans, but it takes effort to find and hire veterans.”
There’s an entire web of federal agencies and partners that support transitioning service members into the workforce, and helping veterans find jobs. It can be overwhelming to try to understand all of the options, opportunities, and acronyms that the federal government has in this area, but here are a couple key of take-aways from what we heard:
- The administration has placed a focus on its Expanding Apprenticeships in America program, focused on established industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. While this program is not specific to veterans, there are several programs within it that promote approved apprenticeships to separating service members and veterans. This includes the Department of Defense Skill Bridge Program, which provides payment for active-duty service members to participate in such programs during their final year of service. Establishing such a program can take time and effort, and must lead to high-paying jobs, but can be an effective way for industries to develop a pipeline of trained, qualified members of the workforce.
- The Department of Labor’s HIRE Vets program (www.HIREVets.gov) offers a “Medallion Program,” in essence, a recognition that an employer is veteran friendly and veteran-ready. There are requirements by employer size, but an employer needs to be hiring and retaining veterans, and have programs to support them. This recognition can be helpful in recruiting veterans, and helps potential employers be recognized as places veterans are welcome.
My key take-away from Toal’s presentation was that there are programs out there that can help industries – including ours – find veterans and bring them into the private sector workforce. As with all programs run by the federal government, it isn’t easy. However, for industries facing a need for new workers, including individuals trained and experienced in operating heavy equipment, these programs can provide an enormous opportunity and have the potential to support our workforce of tomorrow.To review a copy of the full presentation 19-P-18, click here. (Note website access is required. Please contact Jacob Minor, [email protected] for help logging in).