Manufacturer Helps Vets Turn Military Skills Into Jobs

Heesun Wee

Advanced Technology Services, a company that maintains manufacturing plant equipment, has fashioned a unique way to fill their vacant jobs—specifically recruit and hire America's returning veterans.

Turns out soldiers trained in handling guns, radios and other kinds of equipment possess the ideal skills to work in America's manufacturing plants.

"They have all these great skills and manufacturing is a perfect place for them to transition into," said Holly Mosack, director of military recruiting for Advanced Technology Services, based in Peoria, Ill.

Whether U.S. manufacturing can thrive again is a perennial question. But recent economic data suggests sector improvement. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) last week said the —shaking off three months of weakness as new orders and employment edged higher.

Advanced Technology Services helps factories improve productivity and profitability. Their clients include Caterpillar , Honeywell , Eaton and Textron.

Advanced Technology Services began focusing on military hiring in 2006. That emphasis was ramped up last year as more vets began returning home from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But transitioning from the battlefield to private-sector work is challenging, as jobs data shows. The unemployment rate for veterans—who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001—was 12.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said earlier this year. (Read more: Veterans Face New Battle in Private-Sector Job Market)

Applying for the wrong jobs

Mosack said she noticed vets applying for the wrong jobs. "They were going for positions they were under or over qualified for."

Other veterans need help on basic skills such as how to address supervisors. Some veterans "feel silly asking, 'What am I supposed to call my boss?' " she said. Advanced Technology Services' program helps veterans navigate these dilemmas and other tasks they've never managed before such as health-care forms and 401(k)s.

Roughly 25 percent or 650 of the company's 2,600 U.S.-based employees are veterans. Brian Aschenbrenner, a former Air Force officer is among them. A military communications officer, Aschenbrenner handled radios, radars, satellites and other communication equipment at Air Force bases and in Iraq, Jordan and Qatar.

After nearly 24 years in the military, Aschenbrenner found himself looking for a civilian job for the first time in his life a few months ago. Advanced Technology Services caught his attention.

"Looking into what they did, I could see the relationship to maintaining factory equipment," he said. Aschenbrenner now supervises maintenance activity on plant industrial equipment in Oklahoma. "The military is full of guys, who have a variety of technical skills."

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