As the economy recovers and the outlook for jobs improves, employers are looking to hire again. That’s why now is a good time for the business community to make a belated resolution for 2010: to make the hiring of Soldiers and veterans a top national priority.
After all, our Soldiers leave behind families and loved ones to selflessly defend our country. They return home equipped with extensive training and skills that are well suited to enrich our workforce and bolster our economy. But how can we turn that ambition into reality?
The U.S. Army Reserve – an all-volunteer force with 206,000 Soldiers currently serving --15,000 of whom are now deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait – has taken steps in that direction. Last year we established the Employer Partnership Office, a public-private venture that urges companies to hire the nation’s one million current and former Reserve Soldiers, and facilitates the process for doing so.
More than 800 organizations in all 50 states have already joined the Employer Partnership Office. Fortune 500 corporations, government agencies, retailers, local police departments and hospitals have signed on as partners in this innovative collaboration to meet staffing demands and support career-minded Soldiers and Veterans.
Organizations ranging from IBM and Microsoft to GE , Wal-Mart and Johns Hopkins Medical Center now employ Soldiers in such occupations as accountants, attorneys, engineers, city planners, medical professionals, human resource managers and law enforcement officers. Just this month, the Employer Partnership Office signed six new partners during the Army All American Bowl, including Textron , Paychex and FMC Technologies .
The Army Reserve’s Employer Partnership Office is based on a highly practical rationale – that companies with Soldiers on-board can operate more successfully. Most of its Soldiers have already received special training – in leadership development, for example, and team-building experiences – to prepare for jobs, particularly in fields such as health care, construction, transportation and law enforcement. That’s why individuals with military experience often make some of the best employees.
A Reserve Soldier trained as an X-ray technician or nurse can build on such know-how in private life. The more than 12,000 Army Reserve Soldiers in the military police are obviously well-equipped for roles in law enforcement, whether with local police departments or government agencies. And certainly anyone who has driven trucks through treacherous terrain in Iraq and Afghanistan can readily navigate traffic on our nation’s highways.
As our economy grows strong again – and signs of a rebound in hiring are emerging more sharply month by month – more employers should join our efforts to find jobs and build careers for Soldiers and veterans. Beyond being good business, it serves a higher purpose. It lends stability to our families and strengthens our communities. It’s a smart, patriotic investment in our country for 2010. Above all, it gives us a chance to express the gratitude we all feel.
(Editor's Note: General Electric is mentioned in this post, GE is the parent company of CNBC.)
Major General James. R. Sholar is Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command. He has served for more than 38 years as a commissioned officer in the United States Army and Army Reserve and is a Professor Emeritus at Oklahoma State University. Among his awards are the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.