Men and women who have served their country offer skills their civilian counterparts can’t match, making them an excellent fit for the fast-paced, demanding environment of facilities management.
“When you hire a veteran, you hire somebody who is highly trained and easily trainable and who has leadership capabilities,” said Brian Foster of the Paint Folks, a PRSM member. Foster, a veteran himself, now chairs PRSM’s Military/Veteran Hiring Partnership Program Committee.
Service veterans can perform under pressure and are accustomed to working on a team. They’re able to think outside the box to develop creative solutions, but at the same time they understand the importance of following directions. “If you tell a veteran, ‘We need this and this and this, and it needs to be done this way all the time,’ they will do it,” Foster added.
Veterans have a great deal of integrity and self-responsibility; they commit and take pride in themselves, their work and their team.
Foster explained that the U.S. military helps young people develop skills and assume levels of responsibility people outside the service may not gain for many years.
“The military takes an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, or a 22-year-old fresh out of college, puts them through six to eight weeks of military basic training, and sends them to a technical school that lasts from 30 days to a year to teach them their career field. Then, in some cases, you have a 24-year-old flying a multi-million-dollar jet or an 18-year-old who is responsible for making sure a ship or a submarine is running. It’s an enormous responsibility, but they are trained for it,” he said. “Where else are you going to see that? You don’t see a company hiring a high school kid and putting them in charge of a multimillion-dollar operation.”
Many companies today look for employees with college degrees, but veterans have real-world experience with responsibility that no college degree can replace, Foster added.
Hiring disabled veterans
Companies in the facilities maintenance industry shouldn’t overlook another valuable resource – veterans who have been disabled during their service.
SourceAmerica has more than 1,200 partners nationwide providing products and services that help people with severe disabilities, including disabled veterans, find work. It contracts with federal government agencies and commercial and retail sectors for jobs in everything from facilities maintenance and administrative services to call centers, IT services and supply chain management. SourceAmerica is the prime facilities maintenance contractor for public works at Ft. Knox. One of its non-profit agency subcontractors there performs general facilities maintenance repairs for plumbing, electrical, mechanical, buildings and structures and roads and grounds work.
Approximately 20 to 25 percent of people SourceAmerica and their nonprofit agencies are able to assist are disabled veterans, said Todd Bennett, former director of FM Operations at Ft. Knox, now working in regional operations in the FM program for the organization. “When we’re out recruiting, we look first for veterans and for people who are just coming out of the service.”
The organization works with the disabled individuals to assess their capabilities and then find the right placements for them. While an individual who has lost an arm may not be a good person to handle service orders, they might be an excellent fit for a call center position or a data analytics task where it’s all desk work. “These are people who are dedicated and who want to work,” Bennett added.
The majority of former service members who work with Source America usually start as a government contractor at first. But the goal is to have them graduate into private sector employment. Employers can help with this effort. For example, at Ft. Knox, Source America established an approved Department of Labor apprenticeship program that helps the person with a disability gain additional skills. “Two of our people in the program were disabled; they graduated and are now working in the public sector, getting paid competitive wages,” Bennett said.
Finding job candidates
The PRSM Task Force has been looking for ways to make it easier for people who have completed or will soon complete their military service to find jobs within the industry. They are working with the team redesigning the PRSM website to develop a section dedicated to helping veterans find jobs with retailers and suppliers. Through this special section of the PRSM website, veterans will be able to respond to job openings posted by PRSM members and will be able to post their resumes as well.
The Task Force is also working to identify organizations that help veterans find jobs so that they can spread the word about the PRSM job site for service veterans. It’s a big task, however, because the committee members are finding in addition to the larger organizations like SourceAmerica, Wounded Warriors or Hire a Hero, there are many local organizations who take on this task in their own communities.
Bennett suggested any company that would like to hire more veterans can start by seeking assistance from the local veterans’ organizations. If there are military bases in their area, the companies can contact the out-processing office the base provides for those leaving the service. Businesses may be able to post job openings with these offices and participate in job fairs they hold.
Bennett also noted the government does offer some tax incentives to companies who hire disabled veterans, such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). Grants and funding are also available for employers and non-profit agencies who want to develop an apprenticeship program through SourceAmerica or one of its non-profit agencies.
Companies may seek to hire veterans because they want to honor their service and their commitment. “The veterans gave to their country, and it’s a way for employers to give back to them,’ Bennett said.
But facilities management companies and other businesses should also realize they’re gaining much more, Foster said. “When they’re hiring a veteran, they’re hiring someone who is a genuine leader and who will be a great benefit to their company.”
By: Mary Lou Jay