News Column

From Barracks to Boardroom

For young Hispanics intent on getting a jump on career training, military service is an attractive option.

By Vivienne Heines
January/February 2002

Whether your career goals include the armed forces, Corporate America, or the federal government, military service can be an excellent resume-builder. Today’s recruits receive job training and education opportunities while developing a work ethic proven to dramatically improve their employment prospects, officials say. “They have received state-of-the-art technical training. They have the discipline and maturity to go out into the work force and succeed,” says Lt. Col. James A. Campbell, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Miami. “They’re self-motivated and they’re able to carry out instructions.” Like their peers from generations past, many of today’s enlistees are motivated by a sense of patriotism and a desire for adventure. Others, however, may be seeking something different from their military experience, according to David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness in Washington, D.C. “There’s a significant element of self-realization and self-development today,” Mr. Chu says. “It’s always been present to some extent. They want to know, 'How am I going to develop as a whole person as a result of this experience?'” That may explain the success of today’s “Army of One” advertising campaign. The slogan, which was criticized by retirees for seeming to emphasize individuality over teamwork, apparently appeals to young recruits. Hits on the Army’s recruiting Web site jumped 50 to 60 percent after the ad campaign was launched, observes Mr. Chu. Military recruiters have made significant inroads in appealing to young Hispanics, largely because of efforts to provide more advancement opportunities. As of September 1999, 7.7 percent of U.S. active-duty forces were Hispanic, up from 7.2 percent in September 1998, 5.8 percent in 1995, and 4.6 percent in 1990, according to a Defense Department research study. Hispanics account for about 12.5 percent of the U.S. population., launched in August 2001, is a visible example of the military’s new emphasis on Hispanic outreach. Developed at a cost of $500,000, it’s the first military Web site that targets a minority audience. Like Hispanic recruitment ads that have become increasingly common in all media, is bilingual and aimed at both potential recruits and their relatives. Family members usually play a significant role in a young person’s decision to join the military, explains Eddie Batiz, Web-site designer and CEO of Visitors can look at a variety of job specialties offered in the Navy and even complete an online assessment for a naval career that suits their skills. The site also features a detailed history of Hispanic involvement in the American military. “We wanted to encourage recruits and to give them a sense of pride. [Hispanics] have been serving in the Navy since the 1700s,” says Mr. Batiz. The Web site has been popular, attracting nearly 50,000 visitors in its first few days online. Mr. Batiz has been approached about a similar project for the National Guard and the Army, he says. “The best way to penetrate the Latino community is to understand their culture and to communicate on all levels, not just the Net but on the radio as well. You also have to understand the diversity within the Hispanic community,” he says. The Army typically attracts about 70,000 recruits a year. Of those, a third do not make it through basic training, another third leave after they have completed their first enlistment, and the remaining third stay on for another enlistment. With so many young people looking to the military for job training, the Army has created a program through which corporate partners agree to reserve jobs for trained Army veterans. Applicants benefit by receiving preferential treatment from specific companies after their military service. “Because of the numbers of people we recruit, we’re really in direct competition with America’s corporations,” says Dan Murdock, who heads the program, called Partnership for Youth Success (PAYS), based at Fort Knox, Kentucky. “In this program, we partner with corporations to give young people a job after they leave their military service. It’s not a guarantee, but it gets them in for the interview, which is the first step.” Corporate partners include Bell South, General Dynamics, Goodyear, John Deere, State Farm Insurance, the Pepsi Bottling Group, Lockheed Martin, and Halliburton Co. Some corporations are interested in specific skills Š health-care providers may want an Army-trained medic, for instance, while Pepsi might seek licensed and trained truck drivers. “Our recruits are mature, are free and clear of drugs, and have a good work ethic and Army values,” says Mr. Murdock. “Corporations tell us they’ll take any of our soldiers and train them for their corporation.” Last year, 2,000 young people entered the Army through PAYS, and the program is actively recruiting Hispanic corporate partners, Mr. Murdock says. The program also helps link Corporate America with the military, he adds. “This helps to establish the Army as a positive model in Corporate America. We call it reconnecting America with its Army,” he says. “If you take away the World War II veterans, less than 6 percent of Americans in the private sector have had any experience with the armed forces.” Corporations that have hired employees through the program say they are amazed at the amount of technical training recruits receive. Mr. Murdock says that Goodyear officials told him they could reduce the training necessary for participants. “Right now, it’s a patriotic gesture,” Mr. Murdock says of corporations that have signed on with the program. “It helps our recruits to know that these companies are willing to take care of them when they get out of the Army.”

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS magazine

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