As a sailor in the U.S. Navy for 29 years, Dave Collins traveled to the far corners of the earth in a submarine: Africa, the Arctic, the southernmost points of South America.
When he retired from the military in August, Collins briefly considered the same careers many fellow veterans pursued, including the Defense Department and law enforcement. But after three decades in and on the water, Collins was hungry for a new challenge. He found it on the work floors of America's manufacturing plants.
Collins landed a job at Advanced Technology Services. Based in Peoria, Ill., the midsize business maintains equipment for giants such as Caterpillar and Honeywell, as well as for smaller companies that make everything from golf-cart parts to chocolates.
"It's challenging to find people in manufacturing," said Holly Mosack, director of employee communications for Advanced Technology. "One of the jackpots we hit was to find people in the military."
Mosack herself retired from the Army after seven years, including service in Iraq. Her military job duties included financial, casualty reporting and postal operations.
Advanced Technology is among a growing number of U.S. companies making veteran hires a priority. This is happening as more men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning home and seeking jobs. Last week, coffee chain Starbucks said it would commit to hiring at least 10,000 veterans and spouses of active military in five years. Still, many more former service members are still looking for work.
Unemployment among veterans remains a challenge, as many Americans continue to struggle to shore up finances after the Great Recession. The jobless rate for veterans is hovering around 7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which mirrors the overall unemployment rate in the U.S.