Arizona Corporate Council on Veteran Careers aims to close the gap

Nearly six years ago, when creating its annual Arizona Roadmap to Veteran Employment, the Arizona Coalition for Military Families (ACMF) noticed a hole in the statewide system. The government and community sectors were engaged and active in their efforts to employ veterans, but the same could not be said of the private corporate sector.

Recognizing this gap, representatives of Arizona Public Service (APS) and United Services Automobile Association (USAA) came together with ACMF to establish the Arizona Corporate Council on Veteran Careers (ACCVC). This completed what is referred to as the “tripod,” ensuring that the non-profit, government and corporate sectors are all doing their part to best serve veterans.

The veteran unemployment rate stands between 3.2-4.5 percent, but Thomas Winkel, executive director of ACMF, wants to see that number at zero. Initiatives like those taken by ACCVC play a huge role in achieving that. “Through outreach to like minded business that want to play a part, we’re able to move the needle more,” Winkel said.

Ultimately, ACCVC’s goal is to combat unemployment and, even more prevalent, underemployment by providing companies with the resources necessary to understand and utilize veterans, ensuring that they are placed in challenging careers worthy of their skills. “Underemployment is of great concern to us,” Winkel said. “These are remarkable people with remarkable skills. Underutilization means an impact for their psyche and potentially a wage impact for their family. It becomes a real issue.”

ACCVC offers training programs for human resources departments to address the common lack of understanding that can prevent veterans from fully translating their skills into civilian careers.

ACCVC uses a multipronged approach to achieve this goal. In addition to developing programs to educate corporate human resources departments, they share best practices and provide resources and staff to guarantee opportunities for veterans.

“We realize that there is a market out there to get companies across Arizona speaking the same language, in the same mindset and looking at veterans in the same way,” said Hal Pittman, director of external communications at APS. “How can we work together to make sure that they’re in the right place, and that they’re being challenged?”

ACCVC recognizes that this is not a one-sided problem. It takes buy-in from companies as well as veterans themselves to ensure the needs of  both sides are met. It is just as crucial for corporate hirers to know the right questions to ask a veteran as it is for veterans to understand how to talk about their skills in a way that will translate. When these two things are done well, both sides reap the benefits.

In veterans, companies stand to gain highly dedicated, goal and task oriented employees who trained to be team focused rather than individually concerned.

ACCVC’s work does not end when the employment offer is signed. The council continually works with organizations to further develop a culture that properly utilizes veterans, listens to them and understands how to harness the array of capabilities that veterans bring.  

ACCVC’s plan is to continue the good work, to partner with other veteran services groups and get the word out, ensuring that there is a constant drumbeat reminding all involved to do their part in this arena.

“For those that are trying to figure it out, be it companies or veterans, we’re trying to help,” Pittman said.

Ava Montoya

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