Last May, after serving his country for 13 years in the United States Air Force, technical sergeant Heath McNaughton was re-entering the civilian workforce. Armed with two associate and a bachelor’s degree he’d earned while serving, he was feeling quite optimistic about his post military professional life.
Then reality set in.
McNaughton discovered what many of his fellow veterans had upon returning to civilian workforce – lots of things change when there’s a decade or more between job interviews.
“The job market was a totally different beast from what I’d remembered,” said McNaughton.
“I know what I’m good at, but understanding how that translates to the civilian workforce was tough.”
Enter Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley
Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley (GESMV) noticed a disturbing statistic – unemployment for veterans in Ohio, especially post-9/11 veterans, was higher than the national average. Yet according to the Society of Human Resource Management, 88% of employers had no idea how to reach those unemployed veterans.
What if there was a way to connect employers with unemployed veterans?
The Veterans & Employers Connection or simply, “the Connection” is a partnership between employers, support service providers and community organizations working together toward a common goal: the long-term, meaningful employment of veterans in the Miami Valley area.
“Since the Connection started, we’ve had nearly 400 veterans walk through our doors,” said Daniel M. Semsel, director of Veteran Employment Services and a retired Air Force colonel formerly stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
Helping veterans to discover how their military skills will translate best into the civilian workforce is one of Semsel’s biggest challenges. Another is helping veterans to have a more realistic expectation when it comes to type of job they may likely get.
He explained “You could be captain so-and-so in the military, but then you enter the civilian workforce, and you’re working an entry-level HR job. That’s often tough for veterans to understand.”
How does the Connection help veterans find employment?
The starting point is obvious — helping the veteran update his or her resume — then comes a preparatory interview to gain a clear understanding of the veteran’s background, skill set and interests. Semsel then reaches out to employers in the Connection’s network who are looking to fill positions for which the veteran might be a good fit. Companies currently in the Connection’s network include smaller organizations like HR Machine in Moraine, to larger corporations such as Kroger, Lowes and Cintas.
Semsel also helps employers to understand the many valuable “soft skills” that veterans bring to the workplace.
“Veterans bring skills to the table that you wouldn’t necessarily put on a resume,” he said. “Things like discipline, leadership, communication, and problem-solving.”
In Heath McNaughton’s case, it was a matter of helping him to take what he knew and capitalize on it.
“Heath realized he had a lot of things to bring to the table with his HR background. He took it and ran with it,” said Semsel.
McNaughton now works at Hobart Service as a program director and instructor.
“Dan goes above and beyond,” said McNaughton. “He recommended upwards of ten different jobs to me. Being plugged into different people in the community can be priceless.”
In support of the Connection, GESMV will host the annual Empowering Independence Concert on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at Fraze Pavilion. The concert, which will feature award-winning music acts, honors veterans and Connection program participants.
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