Hiring Our Heroes: Past Lessons, Future Progress

Posted February 14, 2013

By Kevin Schmiegel, Executive Director of Hiring Our Heroes

In March 2012, Hiring Our Heroes, the National Chamber Foundation, Capital One, and numerous businesses across America committed to getting half a million veterans and military spouses hired by the end of 2014. Through a combination of veteran and military spouse hiring fairs, workshops and online tools, and the engagement of the business community at every level, we reached for 500,000 with no reservation.

Our first year of the campaign was definitely a learning experience.

The reality of unemployment in the military community in 2012 was stark. The unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans remained nearly 50% higher than the national average throughout the year. Among veterans aged 24 and under the unemployment rate was roughly double that of their non-veteran counterparts. More than 1 in 4 military spouses was unemployed. Businesses were looking for these skilled workers, but had trouble connecting to these groups due to either limited resources or limited networks.

These were all things we knew going into the campaign, though.

The learning experience came when we saw that a grassroots network of local partners and chambers of commerce could help us organize more than 400 hiring fairs in less than two years. It came when large corporations sponsored fair after fair, so small businesses could afford to find the talent they needed.

Prior to the incredible announcement of Walmart’s pledge to hire 100,000 veterans, more than 800 businesses and organizations had already joined our campaign to get half a million hired. We learned that whether they could hire five or five hundred, these companies recognized the benefits of hiring a veteran or military spouse and were willing to come find them.

I am happy to report that a recent commitment by an early partner in this campaign and a Fortune 500 recruiter, PeopleScout, to get 15,000 veterans hired in the next year has pushed us past 200,000 pledges to hire. Less than one year into this three-year campaign, close to a quarter of a million commitments have been made, and nearly 100,000 of them already fulfilled.

In 2012, we learned that getting half a million veterans and military spouses hired is no tall order when corporations, small businesses, and public partners step up. We continue on toward 500,000 and look forward to all of the lessons ahead.