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HDS Expo Helps Wounded Warriors Find Jobs

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

veterans at the expo talking to a recruiter Forty years ago, when veterans returned from the Vietnam War, there was not much support for soldiers — especially wounded ones — who wanted to return to civilian life and find meaningful work. Apart from a few select employment programs in place, the perception of returning soldiers was that they didn’t have skills that could transfer over into a regular office or professional job.

Following the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of recent years, the philosophy that soldiers with physical and mental disabilities cannot work has been flipped on its head. Today’s soldiers have been rehabilitated, are eager to work – and many companies are ready and willing to hire them.

Looking for a Few Good Heroes
That much was clear last week at Hire Disability Solution’s first-ever Global Veterans Career Expo, which was held in New York City. More than 2,000 and qualified veterans, their spouses and family members filled the New Yorker hotel to participate in one-on-one interviews, workshops and networking sessions, and mentoring opportunities. The theme was “Be a Hero, Hire a Hero,” and the event is part of Hire Disability Solutions’ ongoing commitment to placing veterans with disabilities into jobs.

Companies traditionally known for hiring veterans, such as federal contractors who must comply with certain hiring requirements, had an outstanding presence at the expo, including Caterpillar, a major U.S. defense manufacturer. The halls also were lined with blue-chip firms like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Verizon, all who were excited about the prospects of bringing veterans, including those with disabilities, on board into professional jobs.

Wounded Warriors Return Home
Currently there are about 300,000 recently returned veterans in the U.S. Armed Forces who have one or more disabilities. They include soldiers who may have lost one or more limbs as the result of a bomb or an interactive explosive device (IED). Other “signature injuries” of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Fortunately, our nation’s wounded warriors with physical disabilities receive excellent care; many are fitted with arm or leg prostheses to help them participate in society. Conditions like TBI and PTSD are treatable, and often temporary.

This is good news for Corporate America, who will greatly benefit from the leadership skills of our nation’s veterans. Military service can be strong predictor of a candidate’s leadership skills, their ability to receive and respond to supervision and training, and their sense of commitment to the job, says Jeff Klare, CEO of Hire Disability Solutions. “We know today that soldiers are loyal and dedicated to whatever they put their mind to,” he adds.

Specialized Military Recruiting
The nearly 100 employers at the expo agreed. Some companies decked out their booths with military-themed brochures and flyers, including MetLife, which is looking to build out its financial services operations, says Bonnie DeVito, a recruiter. Verizon’s flyers featured a photo of service member and a list of benefits of working with the telecommunications giant, including up to $8,000 in tuition assistance for college degrees. “We’re always looking for high-performers and self-motivators like our nation’s soldiers,” says Nicolas Relacion, a military recruiter for Verizon.

Other companies kept their marketing materials general, but all hands were on deck to meet and greet each and every job candidate who walked up to their booths. Jessica Rodino, a recruiter at UBS, says her company is looking to hire in their wealth management division as well as for corporate jobs such as in operations, control and compliance, communications, real estate and information technology. Enterprise-Rent-a-Car sought candidates for its management trainee program, and a handful of universities, including the University of Phoenix and City University New York, had hopes of drawing new students onto their brick-and-mortar and online campuses.

Non-profit and military service organizations also lent their support, including America’s Heroes at Work, a U.S. Department of Labor project that addresses the employment challenges of returning service members and veterans living with TBI and PTSD. The Professional Golf Association was there, too, to promote Birdies for the Brave, an initiative where PGA TOUR players and corporate partners raise millions of dollars for wounded warriors and military families. “We do everything from fundraising tournaments to letter-writing to care packages for soldiers,” says Daniel Chelel, the community outreach program administrator for the PGA TOUR.

Workshops for Learning
In addition to the career booths, Hire Disability Solutions organized a series of workshops aimed at helping veterans with disabilities learn about topics such as transitioning to civilian employment, buying a home, starting a business and accessing VA health benefits. JP Morgan Chase held a series on financial literacy, and Caterpillar presented a session on making a successful transition to Corporate America.

The Global Veteran’s Career Expo’s sponsors included corporate employers and military agencies and universities. It was held in partnership with The New York Times, Veterans Across America, RecruitMilitary and the New York City Business Leadership Network.

For those who could not attend the Expo in person, it will also run virtually (online) for several weeks at military bases around the world, helping to ensure that wounded warriors get a fair shot at the best jobs Corporate America has to offer.

Check out CNN’s coverage of the Global Veteran’s Career Expo here.