'Hiring Our Heroes' connects veterans, spouses with jobs

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So far, some 800 businesses of all sizes have pledged to hire 182,000 veterans and military spouses toward that goal -- 85,000 have landed jobs with the private and public sectors in just the last seven months according to the chamber's September quarterly report.

Executive director of "Hiring Our Heroes" and vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Kevin Schmiegel said in the latter part of his 20-year Marine Corps career, he became head of enlisted assignments, which included overseeing 60 human resources managers who were responsible for the assignment and retention of 170,000 Marines globally.

"When I was in that role, I often asked young Marines about whether they were going to stay or leave the Marine Corps and found out that three of four do leave after their first four years, so in that context, when I began working at the chamber -- which is the world's largest business federation -- I saw that employers wanted to hire veterans," he said, adding that since program inception, "Hiring Our Heroes" has held more than 380 job fairs.

"Hiring Our Heroes" has formed partnerships with the Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Labor, Defense Department and programs such as the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, the White House Joining Forces program, the American Legion, Blue Star Families and the Community Blueprint, among others.

"We know there are close to four million jobs in America that aren't being filled right now because we lack the skilled workforce but we believe the skills that young men and women learn in the military can be repurposed for the private sector and we should direct veterans and military spouses to those job because they have unique skill sets," Schmiegel said.

He noted that employers want to hire veterans and military spouses because they have solid work ethics, work well in teams and because they bring leadership and management skills and experience to the table.

"It's not just about the technical skills veterans learn in the military -- this is not necessarily about translating MOSs (military occupational skills) to civilian occupations," he said. "Employers want people who show up at work on time; who put in an honest day's work; who can lead and work well in teams -- that's what these 'Hiring Our Heroes' job fairs are about."

National Guard 1st Lt. David R. Muehling is one of those veterans on the hunt for a new job to transition to after he completes his final seven months of active duty. He said he doesn't want to worry about having a lull in employment so he's pushing hard to land a job now.

"I think these hiring fairs are wonderful because the employers here are looking for those with military experience," said Muehling, who has enlisted time and an air defense background in missile and radar operations.

He said he's searched the job market on his own and senses that at times employers have seemed to feel a little intimidated or unsure when they hear he has a military background. John Q. Public views us sometimes as being hard to work with type "A" personalities, he said.

"I think those are sometimes misconceptions and notions that are wrong about the military so to come here where we know the hiring is military-friendly and a lot of these recruiters are prior-service themselves -- it's a real plus," Muehling said.

Helping military spouses to become more marketable was Rachael Tice, a Marine military spouse who landed her job at a "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair. She was behind one of the tables working as a career development specialist with The Major Group, a company that provides training and educational opportunities at no cost to the spouses through the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts or MyCAA program.

"MyCAA is a DoD grant program that allows eligible military spouses to go back to school through approved certification programs and once they have national certification, it's much easier for them to find employment across the country," she said. "We just launched 24 new programs that are in really progressive fields such as sustainable energy, wind and solar power and we've expanded the range of certification programs to include teachers' aides, childcare assistants, personal training and travel agencies."