WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Veterans make great employees because they are trained not only in having a good work ethic, but also in many areas that come in handy in business and industry, according to a veteran who now works to help vets seeking employment.
Allen Smith, a veterans representative at the CareerLink office in Hazleton who served in the Army for 23 years, said during a recent presentation to members of the Manufacturers and Employers Association that there are tax breaks available to companies who hire veterans.
The Returning Heroes tax credit provides incentives of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans, and the Wounded Warriors tax credit doubles the existing Work Opportunity Tax Credit for long-term, unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities up to $9,600.
He said a business or industry can call 800-345-2555 to find out if a veteran is qualified and learn how to take advantage of the tax credit.
Soldiers are grilled in the seven core Army values - loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage - and bring them into the workplace, Smith said.
"These are preached from day one," he said. "In the Soldier's Code, we pledge to 'Treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same.' Duty means being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team. Personal courage includes moral courage. That means if I'm working (an assembly) line, and I see somebody doing what they shouldn't be doing, I'm going to stop it - regardless of who's doing it."
Military training also teaches the man or woman the ability to overcome.
"They will put you in situations of duress, extreme physical discomfort, in a controlled environment," Smith said. "They want you to experience that. They want you to learn to make decisions in that situation."
All of that training makes a veteran more desirable to hire, Smith said.
"A vet may not have the entry-level skills you are looking for, but they are well-versed in a number of areas, with a will and desire to learn," Smith said. "I would rather have somebody who is motivated I can teach, rather than somebody who knows what they are doing and is a slug."
Smith said he researched the top 10 work values employers look for: A strong work ethic, dependability and responsibility, a positive attitude, adaptability, honesty and integrity, self-motivated, motivated to grow and learn, strong self-confidence, professionalism and loyalty.
"Employee values are a good indicator of success," he said. "Notice how just about everything here (the list) coincides with just about everything the military teaches. You guys (business and industry) teach that, but if you take somebody that's a veteran, you get somebody that's already been taught. They've got a head start, and strong self-confidence."
Henry Desrosiers, the veterans' representative in Carbon County, said veterans are anxious to work.
"Veterans with a service-connected disability are eligible for vocational rehabilitation, and I help them with it," Desrosiers said. "Some are still all right to work, even though they are disabled for the military. Some veterans with disabilities even come to me looking for a job - especially the younger veterans, who want to get on with their lives."
Jim Spagnola, the Luzerne County veterans' representative, said the federal government has created a lot of employment programs for veterans.
"The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program provides up to 12 months of vocational training to unemployed veterans who do not qualify for other post-9/11 GI Bill benefits," Spagnola said.
Smith said there are databases on the Internet for all branches of the service that can translate what military occupational skills go with the different kinds of civilian jobs and professions.
"Sometimes, military occupational skills are going to transfer very nicely," he said. "There's going to be some instances where there will be a direct correlation, and some instances where there's not that smooth transition. For instance, a cavalry scout uses computer-aided guidance (system) they use in tanks. It's like playing Xbox."
Smith said as the government pulls put of Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is being downsized across all ranks. Since Pennsylvania is one of the highest veteran-populated states in the nation, hiring the veteran is important locally, he said.
Gina Whalen, the MAEA's director of education and media services, said she got the idea for the seminar from what she heard from members.
"Since we hear of many companies who are hiring but can't find quality employees, I had the idea to bring Allen in to address the group to give them a resource and another outlet to reach out to this demographic," Whalen said.
Melanie Miller, vice president and treasurer of the Bemis Co., which is based in Neenah, Wis., and has a plant in the Valmont Industrial Park, said the firm, founded in 1858, has historically hired veterans.
"We find that employees who have served or are serving in the military are often well trained, have good leadership skills, and reflect these values that are so important to the culture of Bemis Co.," Miller said. "Veterans are a great pool of talent, and they have a great work ethic. We've had good experience hiring veterans."
Miller said special career fairs like the ones Pennsylvania CareerLink holds for veterans is a great opportunity to find new talent, especially in the areas of electrical and mechanical engineering.
Bemis supports not only hiring veterans, but also employees who are serving in the military, she said.
"Bemis is proud of our long history of support for our employees who serve in the military while deployed and once they return home," Miller said. "As recent as 2007, Bemis Co. received the Army National Guard Team medal in appreciation of our support for our employees when they are called to active duty."