By Kirsten Valle Pittman
Posted: Tuesday, Apr. 17, 2012
Hiring military veterans is a critical piece of the economic recovery, benefiting both the workers and the companies looking to capitalize on their skills, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and a panel of local business leaders said Monday.
The presentation at the Charlotte Chamber was meant to highlight the issue and introduce a new private initiative, Veterans 4 Ventures, that will connect vets with businesses, retrain them for the jobs available and equip them with the skills necessary to start their own companies. The goal is to ease veterans’ transition into the workforce and help companies build better, smarter teams, organizers said.
“This is the kind of common-sense plan that we need more of and that could use more support,” said Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat who was in Charlotte as part of her North Carolina Back to Work jobs tour. “… It is truly an American priority.”
Charlotte businessman Manoj Govindan launched Veterans 4 Ventures in January, assembling a team of local leaders and startups to help put veterans to work in growing fields such as energy and data management. The program, still in its pilot phase, will identify 30 to 50 veterans with experience in computer programming, engineering and technology project management to fill jobs at five local businesses.
With help from those companies and local community college programs, Veterans 4 Ventures will help train the candidates, Govindan said. It will also select a handful of veterans interested in starting their own companies for a kind of entrepreneurship boot camp, complete with information about raising capital and running a business, he said.
Panelist Louis Foreman of Enventys, a Charlotte company that helps budding inventors move an idea into production, told the crowd that veterans are generally well-suited to entrepreneurship, citing their dedication and willingness to take risks. A serial entrepreneur, Foreman plans to help connect qualified veterans with great ideas and support them as they strike out on their own.
Helping vets harness and communicate their business skills is important, whether they hope to start their own company or land a job at an existing firm, said panelist Dennis Peterson, a Navy commander who now works at Wells Fargo. Often, workers with military service don’t know how to explain their skills and military duties to potential employers in the private sector, he said.
Former Marine Rye Barcott, now at Duke Energy, said overcoming that might help lower the unemployment rate for veterans. The jobless rate for veterans who served on active duty after September 2001, for instance, stood at 12.1 percent last year, well above the national rate, which averaged about 9 percent for the year, government data show.
While it can be difficult to translate the “acronym soup” of a typical military resume, employers should take note of attributes such as adaptability, decision-making and strong core values, Barcott said. That’s especially relevant to small businesses and startups, where employees might face big decisions – with the potential for big impact – daily, he said.
“Employing veterans is not a matter of charity,” he said. “It is pure enlightened self-interest.”