Jul 20, 2016 - 12:00pm

Our Message at the Conventions: 500,000 Jobs and Counting for Veterans, Spouses

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Photo credit: Hiring Our Heroes/U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Editor's note: This article originally published in The Hill.

When Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) launched in March 2011, the nation was in the grips of the “Great Recession,” with scores of people nationwide out of work, and the employment landscape for military veterans and their families was incredibly bleak.  In fact, it was truly a crisis situation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation started HOH to combat this issue, helping transitioning service members, veterans, and their spouses to find meaningful jobs.

As HOH was first stood up, the mission was simple: Coordinate with state and local chambers of commerce to hold hiring events that connected companies looking to find top military talent to veterans and military spouses on the hunt for employment.  This model has proven to be incredibly effective.  In five years, the program has held more than 1,000 hiring events of different size and scope in all 50 states and around the world.  From those events alone, the program confirmed more than 30,000 hires in the civilian workforce for military families. Further, HOH engaged the private sector in the Hiring 500,000 Heroes campaign, sponsored by Capital One, which activated the business community to hire more than 500,000 veterans and military spouses — a goal that was reached in June of 2015.

As HOH became more sophisticated, a robust suite of online tools was added to our array of resources in order to help military job seekers worldwide on a 24/7 basis. Two of these tools, the Personal Branding Resume Engine for veterans and Career Spark for spouses (both powered by Toyota), are digital programs built to help job seekers translate their military background and skills into resume language that hiring managers and HR representatives understand.

In five years, because of HOH and other programs, the unemployment rate for veterans has dropped to an all-time low and is now below the overall national average.  There is cause for celebration as this is truly a remarkable accomplishment. However, there is much work that remains to be done in the coming years as there are still segments of the veteran population which continue to struggle, especially post-9/11 veterans under the age of 25. And military spouses still face a steep average unemployment rate of over 20 percent. 

With these issues still top of mind, HOH will host a forum and panel discussion in conjunction with the both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, respectively, to highlight the importance of military family employment going forward for the next administration. As a non-partisan entity, HOH is seeking to make the military transition process and employment search a top priority for the next president. The events will be held on Tuesday, July 19, in Cleveland and Tuesday, July 26, in Philadelphia.

While we have certainly come a long way, there is much yet to be done, and HOH is looking forward to working with the next administration to address these key initiatives. We know that the employment search for veterans and their families is not only an economic issue for this country, but it is also a national security issue; if this generation of service members believe that their service or their family’s connection with the military is a stigma in the workforce, the next generation of the all-volunteer force may be hesitant to answer the call. Businesses around the country have recognized over the years that hiring veterans and their spouses is not only a good thing to do; it’s a smart thing to do from a business sense because these individuals bring so much to the table in helping an organization’s bottom line. It’s time to redouble our efforts and forge ahead in the coming years.

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