The Virginia Department of Veterans Services is teaching employers how to hire military veterans -- and, more importantly, how to keep them.
The Virginia Values Veterans program focuses on companies that want to boost workforce productivity to improve their business's performance. The V3 program's certification process is designed to help employers -- particularly the numerous companies with fewer than 1,000 workers -- who want to hire and retain veterans but are having difficulty doing so.
In this, its first year, the veterans-hiring initiative has produced employer commitments to hire 3,505 vets, and 1,573 former service members have found positions with V3 companies, said Steven Combs, the Department of Veterans Services' chief of staff.
"It's going like gangbusters," said Paul Galanti, commissioner of the Department of Veteran Services. "Everybody wants it."
Virginia has a rich trove of military veterans: More than 837,000 vets live in Virginia, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics.
The unemployment rate for veterans of military service since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is 7.5 percent, compared with 6.9 percent for non-veterans, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. For all veterans, the unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, the bureau said.
V3 teaches companies how to "reverse engineer" an organization's job descriptions so vets can easily understand whether they meet the requirements. A job description calling for a candidate to have three years of manufacturing experience "disqualifies 99 percent of vets," said Thomas P. Barto, the V3 program manager with TMG Inc., the state's V3 contractor.
"We ask employers, 'What do you really want?'" Barto said. "They say they want somebody who can come to work on time, work with a team, work safely, read directions."
By changing "manufacturing experience" to "operational experience," Barto said, "you qualify 100 percent of veterans."
Hampton Roads-based TMG, which runs the Virginia Values Veterans program under a $260,000 contract with the Department of Veteran Services, has trained more than 300 companies in techniques for recruiting men and woman with military backgrounds.
The V3 program shows businesses how to change employee hiring from an acquisition model to a recruiting model such as that used in college sports, Barto said. "We need to use the same model for employers to bring the best qualified candidates into their organizations and make them successful."
"The other part of the equation is how many stay with the company," Galanti said. "It they're still working with the company, that probably means they're being treated the right way. That's one of the things the employers are being taught."
Participating companies pledge to retain their new-hire veterans for at least a year.
Virginia hasmore than 150,000 companies employing fewer than 500 employees, the U.S. Small Business Administration says. Those companies represent the overwhelming majority of the total hiring demand, said Joseph C. Barto III, TMG's president and an Army combat veteran. Consequently, Virginia Values Veterans has concentrated its resources on the state's smaller firms.
But the V3 program expects large corporations -- those with more than 1,000 people -- to lead by example: sponsoring conferences, hosting training for their
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