White House honors companies pledging to hire, train veterans
By JESS NOCERA AND ANDREA CWIEKA | McClatchy Washington Bureau (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 6, 2016
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden announced Thursday that more than 50 companies have pledged to hire and train veterans and military spouses in conjunction with their Joining Forces initiative to help support veterans and their families.
"You know our veterans and military spouses are some of the most dedicated, skilled, talented people in this country," Obama said to veterans and Joining Forces companies in a ceremony at the White House State Dining Room on Thursday. "I'm happy that you've pledged to hire more than 110,000 of them and train more than 60,000 of them."
Joining Forces, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this week, has helped many veterans find jobs already. In the past five years, the organization has hired 1.2 million veterans and military spouses and has cut the veteran unemployment rate in half, Obama said.
Currently, 4.6 percent of veterans are unemployed, while 5.2 percent of nonveterans are, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics and Aleks Morosky, the deputy legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a nonprofit service organization.
"The overall trend is that unemployment rate among veterans is inching down," Morosky said.
For post-9/11 veterans, however, unemployment is higher than for veterans of other wars, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Amazon made the biggest promise among the Joining Forces companies, pledging to employ 25,000 military veterans and spouses over the next five years. Aerospace and defense companies such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman pledged to hire 30,000 combined, and telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon also pledged 25,000 veteran hires.
"We believe this is the right thing to do for our veterans and military spouses, and it's the right thing for Amazon as well, and right for our customers," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, who also owns The Washington Post.
"Finding consistent employment is hard for military spouses," said Kathleen Carroll, a Marine Corps veteran and military spouse who spoke at the White House event. Renewing professional licenses in nursing, real estate or other jobs can be costly, she said, especially for families frequently moving from state to state.
Joining Forces has gotten all 50 states to help veterans transfer their military training into civilian training for jobs in areas such as health care, Obama said. Every state except New York has passed laws to help military spouses transfer their professional licenses from state to state.
Other companies — including Dell, Accenture, Hewlett-Packard and Samsung — pledged to hire anywhere from 100 to 5,000 veterans and military spouses.
For Carroll, making the transition from the Marine Corps to civilian life was "daunting."
"The Marines gave my life a lot of meaning," said the former logistics officer. Carroll's work as part of a veterans recruiting team for Amazon, however, has given her a meaningful second career, she said.
Obama noted that about 200,000 servicemembers make the transition each year.
The biggest challenge veterans face is that many simply do not know how to search for jobs, said Nathan Smith, chief operating officer at Hire Heroes USA, which he said would help 15,500 veterans this year in their transition.
Often, veterans "don't know how to translate their skills and experience in a way that civilian employers find winsome," Smith said.
There are many organizations out there that specialize in helping veterans make their transitions as successful as possible.
Hire Heroes USA is a partner of the USO 360 initiative, created to help better prepare servicemen and women for civilian life before they leave the service.
"We are with them for when they put the uniform on and until they take it off," said Susan Thomas, vice president of programs at the USO.
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