Good intentions are not enough when it comes to hiring the new generation of veterans in a highly competitive job market, business leaders were told Wednesday.
"It's not all rainbows and unicorns out there" for veterans or the employers seeking to hire them, said Ray Weeks, vice president of Veterans Initiatives for Prudential Financial.
Just as troops must prepare carefully for civilian life, employers must be focused in their efforts to hire them, Weeks and other jobs specialists said at the National Veteran Employment Summit sponsored by Monster and Military.com.
Employers must have a plan that goes beyond the feel-good civic duty of offering a job slot and develop programs to convince veterans that they're choosing a career path and not just getting off the unemployment rolls, said Evan Guzman, head of Military and Veterans Affairs at Verizon.
"We have to meet them halfway," Guzman said. "Before you go out there, engage to be sure your infrastructure is ready," Guzman said. "It's a learning curve for employers as well."
The keynote speaker of the summit was Salvatore Giunta, the former Army sergeant who was the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War, who told the audience to give a vet a chance.
"They're worth it. They're better than you think they are," said Giunta, who received the nation's highest award for valor for his actions while serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Aghanistan in 2007.
For veterans, teamwork was a survival skill while they were in uniform, and they can bring that same spirit of commitment and selflessness to a job that offers them an opportunity for advancement, Giunta said. The bottom line was that "we know failure is not an option," Giunta said.
At a later panel on job readiness strategies, Army Col. Adam L. Rocke said the military was working to develop programs for transitioning troops "so when they land out there, they don't land hard, they land softly."
The summit coincided with events marking the third anniversary of the Joining Forces program, the initiative sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden to help troops and their families in the transition to civilian life.
At a conference of philanthropic groups, Mrs. Obama warned that with another one million troops will be leaving the military over the next five years and "we cannot allow ourselves to forget their service to our country."
"We've got to show our military families that our country is there for them not just while they're in uniform but for the long haul," Mrs. Obama said.
She announced the launch of the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge in which more than 30 organizations were making commitments to help military families with jobs and services over the next five years.
The organizations have already committed $62 million to the effort, and they pledged another $102 million to the programs through 2020, Mrs. Obama said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@monster.com.