Hiring our military heroes
Military veterans like U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Christine Kilburn are finding new careers at Wells Fargo companies through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program.
While not an engineer by training, Master Sgt. Christine Kilburn’s U.S. Air Force service often required her to think like one.
She certified cargo planes had the right sensors on board to accurately measure wind speed and other data while delivering supplies to the drop zone below, and double-checked the radio frequencies guiding pilots and their planes safely on their missions, among other things.
After traveling the world with the Air Force for 20 years, Kilburn had to choose what came next in her career.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program made the choice easy. The fellowships pair transitioning military talent with companies seeking their skills.
“As I learned what everybody does and received encouragement and mentoring and thought about the experiences I brought to a potential employer like Wells Fargo, I realized that the communication, planning, and other skills from the military did translate to a compliance or project management position. I could do that.” — Christine Kilburn, Wells Fargo Advisors
Wells Fargo Advisors worked with Wells Fargo & Company’s Military Affairs program to join the more than 450 companies hosting Hiring Our Heroes corporate fellows to date. Nationwide, hands-on training and employment has been offered to more than 2,500 graduates.
“Two other companies also interviewed me, but I chose Wells Fargo Advisors,” said Kilburn, a member of the first class of fellows trained by Wells Fargo Advisors. “As I learned what everybody does, received encouragement and mentoring, and thought about the experiences I brought to a potential employer like Wells Fargo Advisors, I realized that the communication, planning, and other skills from the military did translate to a compliance or project management position. I could do that.”
Heather Hunt-Ruddy, head of client experience and growth for Wells Fargo Advisors, said the Hiring Our Heroes corporate fellowships add to its Next Generation Talent efforts to find, hire, and retain diverse advisors, branch managers, and other employees for its changing clients and communities.
“We’re always looking for talent, and the amount of talent and advanced degrees and experience that come out of the military is staggering,” she said. “This is an amazing way for us to help people transition to the private sector and do the right thing for communities, veterans, and clients.”
Program participants served 12-week fellowships in St. Louis from August through November 2019 — picking either client experience or service and operations tracks. Along the way, they met senior leaders from several Wells Fargo businesses and built a Habitat for Humanity home together. One even threw out the first pitch for a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.
“This is an amazing way for us to help people transition to the private sector and do the right thing for communities, veterans, and clients.” — Heather Hunt-Ruddy, head of client experience and growth for Wells Fargo Advisors
Collaborating with Hiring Our Heroes is part of Wells Fargo & Company’s ongoing military commitment and efforts to support service members, veterans, their families, and communities. The company also aims to increase its number of military and veteran employees from more than 8,500 to at least 20,000.
Wells Fargo has also increased the size of the Military Strategic Sourcing team from six to 20 members, updated position descriptions to make them more military friendly, and held “Boots to Banking” hiring events for several businesses and roles.
U.S. Army veteran Bob Shiflet, head of fraud and claims management for Wells Fargo Bank’s Consumer and Small Business Banking division, launched the first Boots to Banking program with Military Strategic Sourcing in November 2019. The event netted 16 new veteran employees as financial crime investigators. Similar programs have added nearly 190 new veteran hires, greatly increasing Wells Fargo’s ability to attract and hire veterans.
Bailey Rinella, manager of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes fellowship program in St. Louis, noted that Hiring Our Heroes launched in 2011, when veteran unemployment stood at 12.1%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2019, it had fallen to 3.1%, the lowest rate reported since 2000.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, resulting in hiring freezes and additional barriers to employment for transitioning military. In April 2020, the government reported veteran unemployment rates had soared to 11.8% from 3.8% in March — underscoring the need to continue working with companies like Wells Fargo to create proactive economic opportunities for men and women transitioning from the military, and build a strong and diversified workforce.
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“Wells Fargo Advisors has offered an exceptional fellowship experience,” Rinella said. “Fellows were provided an in-depth look at each line of business, as well as ongoing support to help them find their place.
“Wells Fargo Advisors truly set the bar in the fellows’ exposure to senior leadership and their open-door policy with hiring managers,” she said. “The internal networking that Wells Fargo Advisors encouraged is something we now recommend all companies emulate.”
Hunt-Ruddy said Wells Fargo Advisors is set to welcome its second class of fellows in August.
“Right now, my goal is to be the best I can be and make sure everything I do is well done and exceeds expectations,” said Kilburn, a senior compliance associate in the Compliance Program Office of Wells Fargo Advisors. “I’m very happy where I’m at, very grateful, and don’t see a need to search somewhere else. Wells Fargo Advisors is my home.”
Wells Fargo Advisors is a trade name used by Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC, Members SIPC, registered broker-dealers and non-bank affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company. Wells Fargo is an Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Employer, Minority/Female/Disabled/Veteran/Gender Identity/Sexual Orientation.
Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. is a bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company. CAR-0520-03894