Employer demand for veteran employees dipped at pandemic’s start

Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce

The demand from employers seeking veterans dipped at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, say DWD officials working in veteran employment services.

The lessened demand has largely remained the same over the last few months. But Local Veteran Employment Representative Michael James and Southern Region Supervisor for the Office of Veteran Employment Services Al Garcia continue to prepare veterans for employment in civilian life and match them with their ideal careers. 

James, who served 17 of his 24 years in Air Force recruiting, said his job is to match employers with veterans who fit the criteria of certain positions and want to work in that field. 

“Really, the bottom line is, for our team, we work for you and with you, and we also work for the veteran to try to make that match,” James told an audience of employers in a Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce virtual meeting. 

“Our team in Milwaukee averages about five placements a week,” James said. “We’re averaging right around $23 an hour for our veterans, so really good overall. I think, most recently, our highest placing in the last couple of months was around $103,000 a year, so it varies.”

Even though many of the veterans James works with might not have the same amount of experience as their civilian peers seeking jobs, he said veterans are quick learners. 

“When you think about it, whether it’s large or small, the military’s probably the largest company in the United States, and we hire kids out of high school 17 years old to work on multimillion-dollar projects,” James said. “So one of the benefits for you as a company hiring a veteran, is the majority of veterans are easily trained.”

James’ program relies on Disability Veteran Outreach Program specialists to get veterans up to standards required by employers. 

“The DVOP and LVER, yes we have two separate roles, but ultimately we work together as a team to help that veteran have success in employment,” James said. 

Garcia works with specialists to give veterans tools to make themselves eligible for the jobs they are looking for. The services Garcia and James provide to veterans and employers are free of charge. 

Whether they are helping veterans seeking apprenticeship programs or finding homes for those without, the specialists work to get veterans where they need to be to reach their career goals and overcome specific barriers to employment. 

“We try to do our best to work with every vet who falls into those categories and provide them the best employment services that we can,” Garcia said. 

Garcia said one of the biggest problems veterans seeking employment face, or are at risk of, is homelessness.

“If you’re homeless, it’s going to be difficult to concentrate and find employment; If you have no home where you can house your family or make phone calls or use a computer to update your resume or fill out job applications or things of that matter,” Garcia said. 

Garcia and his coworkers have a plethora of resources around the state to help homeless veterans find places to live. 

“If we have a homeless veteran, we’re going to concentrate on getting them housing, and then getting that set up so they can have long term, permanent dwellings, so that we can focus on the career portion,” James said. “Then we’ll work on developing a resume for them, teaching them how to interview, job skills, soft skills, job search practices and things of that nature.”

-By Adam Kelnhofer