Ham(m)er Time!: The mission continues

Veterans bring a wide array of strengths to the workplace, including leadership abilities and strong team-oriented values. Yet despite record U.S job openings, many veterans and their spouses face challenges when transitioning from active duty back to the civilian workforce.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimates nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be created in the next decade. However, 2.4 million of those jobs could go unfilled. According to NAM, more than 80 percent of manufacturers report they cannot find workers to fill skilled production jobs. The inability to attract and retain employees remained the top concern for the sixth consecutive quarter according to NAM’s 2019 First Quarter Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey.

Arizona is projected to add 165,000 new jobs by 2020. And, there are currently 15,000 unfilled positions in the manufacturing and computer systems industries in Arizona, many of which require an industry certification, not a postsecondary degree.

“Notwithstanding their incredible skill set, veterans have difficulties finding the right job with the right employer,” according to Eric Eversole, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program. “Many service members want to find corporate cultures where their leadership and problem-solving skills are valued. They want a sense of purpose and community.”

Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) was launched in March 2011 as a nationwide effort to connect veterans, service members, and military spouses with meaningful employment opportunities. Since that date, HOH has connected more than 225,000 veterans and military spouses to 40,000 employers across the country including many in Arizona. “In our view, Arizona companies are creating communities rooted in that ‘sense of purpose’ valued by veterans and their families,” Eversole said.

With 20 active military installations in the state, Arizona is home to nearly 18,000 active duty service members and more than 500,000 veterans, many of whom have faced workforce challenges. My friend Alan “AP” Powell, a leading Arizona veteran advocate, says he understands firsthand how difficult it can be for vets re-entering the workforce.

Powell, a U.S. Army Desert Storm veteran, remembers the challenges he faced when returning home from Desert Storm in 1991. “There were very few opportunities and resources available to assist veteran entrepreneurs,” he said. “That’s when I took matters into my own hands and created the HeroZona Foundation.”

The HeroZona Foundation is an Arizona-based organization created to celebrate and empower veterans. HeroZona’s flagship event, HeroZona National Veteran Summit, will return to Phoenix in November for the third year. The two-day experience focuses on entrepreneurship, employment and education for veterans.

As Arizona employers face fierce competition for talent, veteran engagement in the workforce is more important than ever. That’s where smart policy comes into play.

Under the leadership of Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona has become a model state for business and home to the fastest growing county in the country. Maricopa County once again added more new residents over the last year than any other county in the nation, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The news marks the third year in a row that Maricopa County led the nation in population growth, adding 81,244 people from July 2017 to June 2018 — equal to more than 200 people a day.

Earlier this month, Gov. Ducey fulfilled a top policy priority with the signing of House Bill 2569, which makes Arizona the first state in the nation to allow universal recognition for occupational licenses, ensuring Arizona’s licensing boards and commissions will now recognize occupational licenses granted in other states during the licensing process, something already done for spouses of military personnel deployed to Arizona.

With Gov. Ducey signing universal licensing reform into law, Arizona is empowering veterans, their families, and taxpayers by creating new opportunities for employment. Our state has become a model for licensing reform and protecting the right to earn a living.

On April 24, the Goldwater Institute, the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes program and the HeroZona Foundation, will host a dinner to kick off a new military employment collaborative series highlighting Arizona’s veterans and military spouses. The event will take place from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley and will feature policymakers such as U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, Gov. Ducey and U.S. Rep. and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw (Texas).

Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

Glenn Hamer

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