IBM VP: Want a Problem Solver? Hire a Veteran

FROM LEFT: Panelists Nicole Gardner, Jeff Hall, John Courson, and Jeff Cleland and moderator CBSN anchor Stephanie Sy. (Photo: William Taylor)

Joining the military comes with eight or more weeks of basic training followed by weeks or months more training in the skills soldiers, sailors, and marines will employ in their military service.

But when it’s time to get out, the military provides a week of classes to transition soon-to-be veterans to civilian life, said Jeff Hall, national employment director for Disabled American Veterans.

Retired Marine Cpl. Jeff Cleland spent his apparently one-size-fits-all week alongside a retiring general and still asks, “Why were we in the same class?”

As manager of research and policy for the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, Cleland focuses on employment transition for veterans and, like Hall, insists more should, and can, be done to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life.

Cleland, Hall, and retired U.S. Army General George Casey were among the panelists during a pre-Veterans Day taping at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Hiring America, a syndicated television series seen in more than 200 countries via the Armed Forces Network, and WorkingNation, a nonprofit that explores employment issues, co-produced the town hall meeting-style “Keeping America’s Promise” for future broadcast.

The program focused on reasons for hiring veterans and resources available for helping them enter and succeed in the workforce.

“Veterans want to get to work, because they are accustomed to having a purpose,” Hall, a Persian Gulf War veteran, said.

Casey had advice for veterans. “Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. … If you don’t have a degree, go to school.”

He added, “One of the significant, but not well-known, impacts of the GI Bill is that 62 percent of the men and women who have used it are first-generation college students.”

Nicole Gardner, a vice president at IBM Global Business Services, reported that her company is looking to hire 2,000 more veterans.

“Veterans offer us great problem-solving skills,” she said. “They are great at teamwork. They are obviously up for a challenge.”

John Courson, president and CEO of Home Builders Institute, said many veterans may not want careers that require college degrees.

“They don’t want to sit behind a desk,” he said. “They want something that keeps them working as a team outdoors.”

His agency visits military bases to begin training young military personnel — mostly in their 20s — to have them ready for careers in construction by the time they discharge, he said. “We train a population that needs a start.”

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