‘Viewpoints’ invites guest authors from outside of Wells Fargo to share an important perspective related to their work. Today, we welcome Christopher Plamp, CEO of Hire Heroes USA and a decorated Air Force combat pilot.
Every week at Hire Heroes USA, hundreds of men and women are individually paired with one of our Transition Specialists so they can begin their journey to a new career.
It’s a process that has occurred week after week for more than a decade and, combined with our significant growth since 2014, has positioned our national nonprofit to reach a milestone of 30,000 confirmed hires by the end of this year.
Each of the men and women we serve has a different story — some are separating from the military, others are unemployed or underemployed veterans, and some are military spouses who face employment challenges due to frequent change of duty stations. They range from junior enlisted to officer, are married or single, and many have families to support. Almost all of them have a high school education, and some have college degrees. A vast majority served in the post 9/11 military and, together, they represent every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
One thing they all have in common is this: Each of them is seeking a job in the civilian workforce.
Transforming military service into civilian success
It’s estimated that approximately 250,000 service members separate from the military every year. And while the U.S. military is praised for the superior training it provides its members, these same men and women are often unprepared for the challenges of finding a job in the civilian workforce. For many of them, resumes, job interviews and, in some cases, even selecting a career path can be a confusing and frustrating process.
That is where Hire Heroes USA fills the gap, providing free employment services to transitioning military members, veterans, and military spouses. Our services include resume, networking, and interview assistance; career mentoring; federal employment guidance; online workshops; webinars; training modules; job matching; virtual career fairs; and a job board that averages more than 15,000 monthly listings. All of this is provided free to our clients.
Earlier this year, Hire Heroes USA conducted an extensive and in-depth analysis of data collected from more than 19,000 individuals who sought our assistance in 2017. One key finding was that registrants with low military ranks (junior enlisted) waited too long to get employment assistance. On average, they didn’t seek our help until nine months after they left the military, whereas officer and noncommissioned officer ranks began preparing at least one year in advance. This represents a huge disparity and reflects why the junior enlisted registrants are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed.
At any one time, Hire Heroes USA is working with over 5,500 actively job-seeking clients, including active duty personnel who are preparing for their separation from the military, veterans, and military spouses. Hundreds of them are unemployed or underemployed, like the Army veteran who is a single mother and left the military to spend more time with her child, and the Marine who is driving for Uber and Lyft while he seeks a federal job. We also have an Air Force reservist who hasn’t found a job since returning from deployment in 2017, and a Navy veteran with more than 21 years of service who recently got laid off. There is even an Army National Guard officer whose medical license isn’t transferrable to the state where he’s currently residing.
And that is just a small peek at the thousands of stories our clients share with us every year.
Helping the private sector support service members as they transition
Part of the solution for reducing unemployment and underemployment among veterans includes better education for employers. Hire Heroes USA actively engages employers around the country to share best practices for veteran hiring and retention. The goal is to bridge the gap between the veterans who seek our services and the employers who are searching for skilled candidates to fill open jobs.
Hire Heroes USA also works with a number of partners, like the Onward to Opportunity, or O2O, program, that provide the professional training and certifications that veterans often lack. These key collaborators enable us to take a more comprehensive approach in addressing the individual needs of our clients. In addition to that, we work with veteran service organizations, which provide complementary services for veterans and their families. Many of them also refer their clients to us for employment assistance.
Wells Fargo’s involvement with Hire Heroes USA — and the bank’s strong commitment to veterans — aligns closely with this mission. Wells Fargo not only participates in our virtual career fairs, it also lists thousands of employment opportunities on our job board. Hire Heroes USA also works closely with Wells Fargo through the O2O program to provide veterans and military spouses essential training and certifications in disciplines like information technology and customer service.
I believe that we, as a country, have a responsibility to make sure that our military men and women are as well prepared for a career after service as they are for their work in the armed forces. It’s vital that they be able to provide for themselves and their families after separation. A big part of that is finding the right career.