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A "Call of Duty" for Veteran Jobs

Activision Donates to Call of Duty Endowment
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick receiving donation of $250,000 on behalf of the Call of Duty Endowment from Microsoft® Stores.

Think it's tough getting a job these days? Going by the latest statistics, it's much tougher if you're a veteran. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate of veterans who have served in the post-9/11 era was 13.3 percent in June 2011, which was up from 12.1 percent the month before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compare these numbers to the veteran jobless rate of 11.5 percent in June 2010, and it's clear that it's getting harder for veterans to find work. Even worse, veterans lag behind the general population when it comes to employment, as the U.S. on the whole had a 9.2 percent jobless rate in June 2011.

The Call of Duty Endowment, founded in 2010 by Activision Blizzard, the makers of the popular video game Call of Duty, is dedicated to addressing veterans' lack of employment opportunities. It's their particular “call of duty,” you could say. The non-profit organization focuses its resources on assisting organizations that provide job placement and training to veterans, as well as engaging the media and public to raise awareness about the issue.

The endowment found its genesis in a conversation between Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and then-VA secretary Jim Nicholson, in which Kotick mentioned that a philanthropic foundation was planning to build a performing arts center on the grounds of the VA facility in West Los Angeles that would offer special benefits for veterans. “[Nicholson's] response was, 'That's great, but our real priorities are finding jobs for veterans. I think if we could redirect people's energies and efforts for job creation, that would be a better use of capital and better for veterans.' That was really the catalyst for me, and when I heard the statistics -- that 50,000 of the 150,000 servicemembers returning from the Middle East can't find jobs -- I thought I could do something about this.

“I particularly thought I could do something with Call of Duty since the game in many respects is something we use to honor many of our veterans, and we felt this would be a good way to tie what we do with the game with finding optimum employment opportunities for veterans.”

In order to increase awareness among companies about the value that veterans can bring to the workforce, the endowment is working with major players such as Microsoft and Toys R Us -- the former recently made a $250,000 contribution.

It all starts at Activision, where Kotick says the focus is on providing veterans opportunities in jobs such as testing, customer service, quality assurance and retail merchandising. “These are areas within our own business that we've found good success, with veterans translating skills from their military careers into those opportunities,” says Kotick. “Forty people in Activision have already transitioned in, and they have career advancement opportunities. It's a model of what can be done, and I'm hopeful that they'll be another 40 to 50 examples of that by the end of this year.”

The endowment is working in a job market that is admittedly one of the toughest in recent memory. “This is one of the most challenging evironments for veterans to be coming into,” says Kotick. “There's nothing to suggest that the economy will improve much over the next few years, so the real challenge is to take the folks who are coming back and so ably served, and help train them for 21st-century jobs. Training is going to become a much more important part of what we do and what we focus on.”

Along those lines, Kotick recommends that transitioning veterans take advantage of education subsidies and stipends such as the GI Bill to improve your education level and hireability, and do solid research on hot new industries and geographical areas for jobs. “Now more than ever, being thoughtful about those decisions are going to be crucial in finding job opportunities,” he says.

The endowment looks to create more links between employment and training opportunities on its website moving forward, as well as get the word out through social networks like Facebook.

“I've been involved in many philanthropic projects, and I feel this is the most important thing I've ever done,” says Kotick. “We're focused on building awareness, and we're starting to see examples like the Robin Hood Foundation in New York or Jamie Dimon over at JP Morgan making efforts to hire more veterans – we want to raise awareness of how capable our returning veterans are, and how much we're obligated as employers to recognize the sacrifices these people have made, and invest in finding them opportunities.”

For more on the Call of Duty Endowment, visit the endowment website.

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