In another blog post recently, we discussed how to attract the incoming Gen Z to the construction industry. This week, let's talk about another group of eligible new hires who you might be overlooking: veterans.
We at ALTA were very lucky and honored to chat with Kent Heronimus on the subject. He's the Recruiting Manager at Interstates and an Air Force veteran. Kent and Interstates are doing some amazing work in regards to military recruiting! I met Kent at the LEAP TA Construction event in July, and after chatting with him a bit about military recruiting, I knew that I wanted to collaborate on a blog post with him. I'm so excited to share his wisdom with you today.
So, why hire veterans?
There are a couple obvious reasons to hire veterans: the company benefits, because their hiring needs are met, and the separating service member benefits, because they begin a meaningful career after leaving the service. But, Kent explains, a major plus to recruiting veterans is that it gets more people and more talent into our industry. As we know, the available workforce in the construction and trades industries is shrinking. Baby Boomers are retiring, and we're not getting as many new recruits from the younger generations who are entering the workforce.
It's a win-win-win for the service member, the company, and the industry as a whole to tap into this talent pool.
But first, look internal.
Before launching a campaign to recruit to veterans and service members about to separate, it's incredibly important to make sure that your house is in order (more on that in a later post!), and that your organization is ready to take on veteran hires. Kent really stressed this as we were talking. As he described the programs and policies and resources that Interstates has in place for their vet new hires, you can see that there's a huge emphasis on connection and camaraderie.
The priority here is to meet the needs of the veterans. New hires who are just leaving the service might need help getting connected to representatives with the VA Office, and appreciate deliberate conversations about benefits and how to get them. Veterans who have been out of the service for a while may have other benefits available that they didn’t know about. And no matter how long they've been a civilian, veterans benefit from making connections. Interstates launched an Employee Resource Group for veterans this year with the purpose of connecting the service members to each other and to the resources that Interstates has available for them. It's all about connection, and it's all about meeting their needs.
Support systems like this need to be in place before you begin recruiting veterans if you want to have any hope of retaining them.
The primary way Kent gets service members interested in working for Interstates is by going straight to them. He travels to some military installations in person to present to groups, and others he has a virtual presentation with. He talks about the industry, and how it aligns with what they are looking for in their post-military careers. He also talks about the resources and benefits that Interstates offers. In addition, he partners with several organizations, including Hiring Our Heroes, an initiative of the US Chamber of Commerce to help veterans find employment after their service. They put on job summits and job fairs that he attends.
In the future, Kent hopes to find and create partners across the industry who work together to hire veterans. For example, if he is chatting with a soldier and they express interest in the industry, but aren't sure that Interstates is right for them, he would ideally know someone -- or many people! -- who are looking to hire, and can make the connection. It would be so powerful to create a nationwide network with the shared goal of getting all this talent into the trades, and helping our honored veterans find meaningful employment.
If you're interested in finding out more, we HIGHLY encourage you to reach out to Kent on LinkedIn and check out what Interstates is doing for military recruiting. There's a wealth of knowledge here, and a fantastic opportunity to be a partner.