Partnerships Are Essential to Recruit More Veterans

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Federal contractors seeking to fulfill their affirmative action responsibilities to veterans should partner with organizations that promote the employment of veterans, according to David Cohen, president of DCI Consulting Group Inc. in Washington, D.C.

The affirmative action requirement for federal contractors is “a major priority of the Obama administration,” Cohen remarked. (Federal contractors must have a written affirmative action program for covered veterans if they have at least 50 employees and a federal contract of at least $100,000.) So, federal contractors should be looking for ways to increase their outreach to recruit veterans. Outreach can be accomplished through many channels.

At a minimum, contractors must post all jobs except executive-level positions and jobs of three days or less with a state employment office when job openings are posted externally, he noted. To promote contractors’ listing with state workforce agency job banks, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has a link to state job banks on its web site. The biggest common error among federal contractors is to do nothing more than post jobs with state employment offices, Cohen told SHRM Online.

That’s just a starting point, noted Lisa Rosser, the author of The Value of a Veteran: The Guide for Human Resource Professionals to Regarding, Recruiting and Retaining Military Veterans and a blogger on hiring veterans at http://www.HireMilitary.com.

Typically, one-stop centers for unemployment claims have a local veterans employment representative who assists veterans in finding employment. In a Sept. 9, 2010, interview, she recommended that employers who are serious about recruiting veterans contact local veterans employment representatives and build relationships. The representatives can help employers understand which veterans, if hired, would qualify for Work Opportunity Tax Credits, she noted. For veterans with disabilities, a tax credit of $4,800 is available, while a $2,400 tax credit is available for any veteran who has left the military service, though she said the second credit is scheduled to expire in 2010.

Another way to boost recruitment of veterans is to partner with organizations, such as the Wounded Warrior Project, that work with veterans to help them into the workforce, Cohen added.

Other organizations for members of the armed services include The Military Officers Association of America, Student Veterans of America, Society of American Military Engineers and Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, to name just a few, noted Rosser, who also recommended networking at such associations.

The OFCCP has a resource guide that lists some local organizations that work with veterans, which Cohen said is a good resource for employers. Also, the OFCCP has its G-FIVE Initiative, which creates incentives for contractors to increase their employment of covered veterans.

“The military has substantial job placement resources and is ready, willing and able to help its members find jobs,” said Alissa Horvitz, an attorney with Littler Mendelson in Washington, D.C.

Each branch of the military service has a Wounded Warrior Program, Rosser remarked. That includes the Army Wounded Warrior Program, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, Marines for Life and Navy Safe Harbor. Each program has a program manager who should be able to help employers recruit veterans.

Military installations have transition centers that can assist with the employment of veterans, she added.

In addition, there are job boards such as at http://www.military.com. The Employer Partnership Initiative has a job board for tapping into members of the National Guard and Reserve, she noted.

And every state has at least one Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment office, Rosser said. Veterans Affairs may pay for internships at companies.

Another resource for contractors seeking to bolster their recruitment initiatives is the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service, which has “excellent resources for employers that need assistance with outreach and recruitment initiatives,” Horvitz said. There are web sites in the Career One Stop page that focus on helping employers find qualified veterans.

Translating Military Experience

Reaching out to partner with organizations alone isn’t enough to recruit veterans, Cohen cautioned. Contractors should give real thought to how they match up the qualifications of someone who has been in the military for his or her whole career with the basic qualifications of a company’s jobs.

“Sometimes there is not a direct link,” Cohen noted. A contractor should find ways to translate military service into qualifications in the business world, he suggested.

“Over 81 percent of jobs in the military have a direct civilian equivalent,” Rosser remarked. But she said many in the military don’t do a good job of packaging their qualifications for civilian employment. Employers who understand the rank structure in the military are better able to translate the military occupational code for positions and build what Rosser refers to as a “skills crosswalk.” With that understanding, recruiters can do key word searches on resumes by military occupational codes.

‘Undertapped Pipeline

Each year approximately 165,000 service members transition out of the military, which Rosser described as “a really undertapped pipeline with hard-core skills in very trying situations.”

To tap into that pipeline, it helps to get recruiters trained up on recruiting veterans or hire a recruiter with experience recruiting veterans, she noted.

Among the most common errors federal contractors make in their recruitment of veterans are not taking the time to find a meaningful recruitment contact and failing to follow through on a regular basis, according to Horvitz. “Like many competing business objectives, it’s a matter of finding the time and setting aside the resources, but when all is said and done, if employers really wanted to make reaching out to veterans one of their priorities, they could,” she concluded.

Allen Smith, J.D., is SHRM’s manager of workplace law content.