The United States currently has the lowest number of unemployed veterans. According to the Disabled Veterans Chamber of Commerce, unemployment in the veteran community is under 3%. This is a monumental milestone when looking at the last 50 years. The demand to hire veteran employees is growing quickly in manufacturing based on their reliability and aptitude. Many veterans want to work once they finish active service; however, they need help finding sustainable career options. There are organizations that bridge employers with veterans and work with the veterans to ensure they have the skills needed to become an even more attractive hire. These organizations play a crucial part in helping veterans successfully transition to the workforce.
NJMEP’s Pro-Action Education NetworkTM (PEN) & Workforce Development team is the ideal example of a program that prepares veterans for these incredible careers.
Lance P. Lopez, Sr., Veterans & Community Recruitment at NJMEP uses his background speaking to veterans interested in industrial careers as a way for them to relate and understand. The programs provided through the PEN team prepare veterans for successful industrial careers outside of the military so they can become invaluable employees to their employers. Most veterans have the skillset and the ability to work in industrial careers; however, their responsibilities in the military don’t translate well on resumes when applying for jobs. The Workforce team assists veterans with adjusting their resumes to ensure they have a higher chance of getting hired while also building on top of their already valuable skill sets.
“Their resume does not reflect the job that they’ve done in the military world. It doesn’t reflect it on their resume how it would be in the civilian world such as logistics, or production assistants, or production management, or surveyor or whatever that they’re doing in the military. It doesn’t say it on their resume when they (are) transforming themselves out to the civilian sector,” explained Pro-Action Education Network & Workforce Development, Veterans & Community Recruitment’s Lance P. Lopez, Sr. “One of the things that we want our veterans to do is to make their resume not just say, ‘Listen I was in military and I served my country for 20 years or 10 years or 5 years.’ Say exactly what it is that you were doing in the military and translate that into civilian language where it would be understood by the employer.”
Lopez states “most employers want to give veterans career opportunities because they have the discipline to succeed in the role and they served in this country, so they want to be loyal to our veterans.”
Helping Veterans Transition to Industrial Fields
Companies throughout the United States have given a preference to hire veterans. However, they need help with building their resumes, accessing industry-specific training programs, and finding the best employers. PEN has a team of recruiters that will provide a template to help the veterans enhance their resumes that will resonate with employers.
“Anyone who has a resume and it doesn’t resemble the [resume] template created by our recruiters, I end up providing feedback by telling the veterans, ‘Listen, this is a resume template of what we have found to be the most effective. You should indicate specifically what you did in the military and translate that on the resume to the civilian world so that way it’s easily identified as to what you did while serving and what you can do now so that it’s understood by the employer,” said Lopez
The increase in veteran employees shows they are being hired at a phenomenal rate. However, there are challenges veterans currently face, especially with the lengthy hiring process in the industry.
“When employers are slow to hire, veterans end up committing to other job opportunities elsewhere which creates a continuous backlog of unemployed, skilled people to work for the manufacturer because those veterans (hired by other employers) have been placed or employed elsewhere due to the slow hiring process,” state Lopez.
Registered Apprenticeships Are the Solution for Workforce Challenges
This challenge is why apprenticeships are important. Registered apprenticeship programs, such as the ones offered by NJMEP’s Workforce Development team provide adequate training and certifications to prepare veterans for successful careers. Veterans will have the proper training while going through apprenticeships, but they need manufacturers to give them a chance. Ultimately, employers must give the veterans the ability to work immediately.
“It’s very important that an employer brings on the vet and allows them to start working as soon as possible and then give them a timeframe to secure the certificate that they should have in order to make them more marketable for promotions within the company,” explained Lopez. “That would do two things. One, it would motivate them to go to work and two, that they’ll have some sort of certificate, national certification that will get them to the next level should any vacancies open up for them to get a promotion within the company.”
Every company the PEN team has worked with has expressed interest in hiring veterans; however, there has been a lack of movement. If companies utilized more apprenticeships and worked with veteran programs, veterans would be able to thrive in these roles, quickly. Since its inception, the Registered Apprenticeship program has successfully placed 20 veterans in apprenticeships. Many may not necessarily have the background, but they can receive proper training. Training is provided to upskill the veterans to fulfill their obligations and creates a qualified, educated manufacturing professional the employer may keep on the books for years if not decades.
“When I first joined NJMEP our senior director was telling me that he had no veteran resumes. Since then, I try to get a pulse on what we’re looking for and how we can attract more veterans involved,” explained Lopez. “Now we have over 20 veterans resumes and growing.”
Value of Partnerships to Drive Veteran Engagement Forward
Partnerships are critical in connecting veterans with employers. Some of the Garden State veteran groups that actively assist veterans include; The American Legion, VFW: The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the US, NJ State Veterans Chamber of Commerce, and Bridging the Gap for Veterans. In addition, private/public partnerships with military bases such as the case of the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Basics program at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst provide veterans with unique access to employment opportunities that are seldom offered to the public. NJMEP’s PEN team also works with the army reserve units and is currently in conversation with the Army PaYS Program to draw interest.
A step forward in bridging the skills gap begins with manufacturers and STEM companies’ willingness to give veterans opportunities, “Companies have to be willing to take the chance on hiring these veterans because there’s some companies that we reached out to and they’ve all said, ‘Listen. The process took too long, and I’m no longer interested’,” Lopez explained. “I would advise any manufacturer that’s looking to hire veterans take the next step and hire the veteran and then get them trained. Our lowest level of certification is the 25-hour Manufacturing Associate course which they can take, self-pace and you can complete that in as little as 4 days.”
Such programs allow veteran employees the flexibility to complete self-paced training while learning on-the-job. This is invaluable for the companies because they’ll have qualified and accredited employees who are thrilled to work in these roles.
Workforce Programs Help Disabled Veterans
Workforce programs aren’t only for non-disabled veterans. There are many who qualify as disabled veterans, specifically able-bodied individuals whose disabilities would not hinder their ability in specific roles. This opens opportunities for those who can and want to work but may fear their status will deter employers from hiring them.
“I am newly designated as a disabled vet. As long as some of these disabilities don’t affect their ability to work machinery and their medication doesn’t interfere with safety protocols then they can still work in these manufacturing jobs. It allows them the ability to work,” Lopez mentioned. “Just because they’re a disabled vet doesn’t mean that they are physically unable to perform their duties that may be required for them to work in manufacturing jobs.”
Lopez’ advice is for individuals looking for career growth is to “start somewhere” at each company. These opportunities are more than entry-level jobs, they lead to meaningful ones. sustainable careers. Industry 4.0 has changed the way manufacturing companies operate, requiring a workforce to have different skills and work in safer environments while receiving competitive compensation.
“At NJMEP, we always tell everybody about the certifications and programs they can take advantage of and the opportunities available in the industry. This is why I love it when I hear my (PEN & Workforce Development) Manager, Larry Banks speaking and telling everybody this is a pathway to a meaningful career. A pathway for individuals who want to have a career.” he advised. “Manufacturing is a well-built machine, and it is a driving force to the American economy and it is alive and well. People are making a livable wage in manufacturing, upwards of $96,000 after a couple of years.”
A Wealth of Opportunities
Industrial careers offer a wealth of opportunities that many veterans may not ever consider. They and their families can live a comfortable and happy life after their service by working in the manufacturing field.
“Our veterans are the driving force to making sure all Americans and our allies enjoy the freedom that we experience every day. Veterans must understand that there is a career once they transition from military service to civilian employment and manufacturing is alive and well and it provides a meaningful and livable wage for them and their families,” Lopez emphasizes. “It provides an opportunity for them to send their kids to higher education or private education if they choose to. We provide them an opportunity to live in a beautiful home in any neighborhood that they want to live in if they decide to. It provides them an opportunity to take vacations and buy new automobiles if they decide to. There’s a place in manufacturing for all military service members.”
Veterans have done so much for our country. Many of them are ready to enter the workforce. They just need the tools and opportunities to enter manufacturing careers. This is why it’s vital for employers to hire them and cooperate with workforce development programs and apprenticeship programs. The industry must accelerate the ability of veterans to fill the open roles to address the industry’s workforce challenges.