“American Jobs for America’s Heroes” offers employment hope for National Guardsmen seeking to re-enter the job market in places like the Permian Basin. And help for that Basin, that is so much in need of qualified personnel.
By Lana Cunningham
Heavy equipment operators. Medical assistance providers. Organizers. Team leaders. Power equipment operators and repairmen. Ability to make intelligent decisions in a split second.
In a West Texas job market where almost every company is advertising for help, the qualities listed above would fit job descriptions at many businesses. Yet, most companies here are not aware of the many people who have these skills sets and are looking for work. An organization called American Jobs for America’s Heroes is designed to help National Guard members, veterans, and spouses find jobs in the private sector. These are people already trained with many of the skills needed in the Permian Basin.
With Center for America as the umbrella group covering the marketing effort, American Jobs for America’s Heroes was started in 2010 to help the increasing number of unemployed National Guardsmen find work. It offers a private website for employers to post jobs and the unemployed know where to look for them.
“Many employers want to hire National Guard members and vets,” noted Steve Nowlan, president of Center for America, which is based in Mendham, N.J. “But they need more effective ways to recruit them when they have openings.”
This nonprofit American Jobs for America’s Heroes (AJAH), in alliance with the National Guard, provides the free solution.
“The military is starting to lay off soldiers in all ranks,” Nowlan pointed out earlier in a prepared statement. “The Army National Guard’s reduction from its current 350,000 base may be between 15,000 and 35,000. The U.S. Army may release 80,000 or more soldiers. Many more veterans will be looking for jobs in addition to those already looking.”
Nowlan cited a U.S. Veterans Affairs report in early January that said that “nearly 50,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are homeless—triple the number in 2011.”
The National Guard is located in every state, with more than 2,800 Armories, and its website advertises that people joining the Guard will learn job skills they can build a career in and out of the military. “The Guard helps in every disaster in this country,” Nowlan said. The AJAH website depicts Guardsmen “assembling and operating power equipment to keep polling places open during Hurricane Sandy cleanup; operating and repairing construction equipment to save homes in storm surges; providing vital medical services when seconds count; organizing teams to manage big projects with life or death consequences; and managing international operations using the latest in global communications.”
The National Guard office in Washington, D.C., does not have a central line of command like the other branches of service, Nowlan said. That is the reason for setting up the organization and job search website. More than 1,000 employers are participating in the AJAH campaign nationally and the effort is to double that number in 2014, according to Nowlan.
“The key advantage of the AJAH campaign is that the free job postings flow through the campaign directly to military employment counselors in the state National Guard commands and other military branches who are working one-on-one with unemployed military candidates to match them with jobs. All services are free to employees and job candidates.”
Recently, 22 candidates from the National Guard and other branches were matched with Weatherford, a Texas company serving the energy industry.
“We know that about 5,500 Guard members and vets were placed in jobs in the last 15 months, which includes all of 2013 and the first three months of 2014,” Nowlan said.
According to the AJAH website, the mission is to encourage employers across America to provide jobs postings for National Guard employment counselors in every state to match with job candidates. Job postings are accessible by all state National Guard counseling teams through a secure internet technology platform donated by Kenexa, an IBM company. Two nonprofits–Corporate America Supports You (CASY) and Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN)–manage the posting process and provide support to the state teams, employers and job seekers. There is no cost involved–not for the employers, job seekers or associations.
Employers wanting to sign up for the service to post their listings only need to go to the website www.CenterforAmerica.org. Then they will receive an email to set up a phone call with Stacey Cummings with CASY, who will answer the company’s questions and provide information on submitting job postings. After the jobs are posted and National Guard employment counselors have reviewed applicants, the company will be contacted. Also, applicants can contact the company directly. In addition, these postings are distributed to other military branch employment counselors.
“We keep information about the company confidential,” Nowlan said. “There is an expectation of privacy. Most employers are happy to hire veterans but they don’t want to publicize it.”
Brigadier General Marianne Watson with the National Guard Bureau said in a video on the Center for America website that Guard members live or serve in 3,000 locations around the country. Guard members are provided education in military, leadership, and civilian training. “People are continuously amazed at the Guard’s ability to get the job done,” she said.
In 2012, Gen. Watson said before the Veterans Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, that one of the many challenges that we have today is unemployment for our returning Guardsmen.
“Based on the Department of Defense Civilian Employment Information database, we estimate that 20 percent of returning National Guard soldiers and airmen are unemployed,” she said. “The rate of unemployed Gulf War-Era II veterans remains much higher than the national non-veteran rate….
“Our National Guardsmen have proven themselves to be ready, reliable, and accessible here at home and overseas,” Watson continued. “Many of them have had multiple deployments away from their families and employers. The National Guard is working hard to offer programs and initiatives that will improve our employment rates.”
Nowlan, meanwhile, pointed to Phillips 66, which is the lead national corporate sponsor for AJAH. In a magazine article published in a Spring 2013 insurance magazine, Phillips 66 Executive Vice President Lawrence Ziemba, citing that same 20 percent unemployment rate for Guardsmen, wrote: “[That] rate is… three times higher than the 7.8 percent unemployment rate of all military veterans and the public at large. Given that American companies are usually very astute at recruiting outstanding people, how are so many industries and companies overlooking this golden opportunity?”
Ziemba pointed to the high number of people in the National Guard. “It represents one-third of our country’s Total Army Force and accounts for 43 percent of the Army’s aviation capabilities and assets.” Meanwhile, the Air National Guard has 106,500 members and operates 17 out of 18 U.S. home air defense operations.
These personnel are taught “to think and act creatively and with initiative when faced with unexpected developments. They have an innate sense of being able to adapt to changing conditions… Their training and development in the military also provide them with a unique ability to help an enterprise understand the strategic objectives and developing the tactical efforts necessary to achieve them,” he wrote.
The Phillips 66 executive noted that many companies have complex recruiting practices and HR departments do not understand how to interpret military experience and how it relates to company career paths. For example, “military communications staff might make excellent IT staff. Platoon leaders might be excellent project managers,” Ziemba said.
His company “has had great experience hiring Guard members. They come in well trained. They understand the importance of safety and teamwork, and they are committed to doing a good job.
“It’s time for business to give back to the Guard.”
For more information, go to www.CenterForAmerica.org or contact Steve Nowlan at 201.513.0379.
Lana Cunningham is a freelance writer who has lived in Midland since it was a pleasant city of 60,000 people.