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MVAA Employment Conference '22: Connecting veterans with jobs
October 10, 2022
MVAA Director Zaneta Adams on the Veteran-Friendly Employers Innovation Conference.
There are plenty of good jobs in Michigan for veterans, and plenty of veterans in Michigan looking for rewarding careers.
We want to marry the two.
At our second annual MVAA Veteran-Friendly Employers Innovation Conference, Sept. 28-29 in Grand Rapids, some 100 attendees gathered to discuss ways for both employers and employees to overcome the issues facing the labor market for veterans in Michigan.
Yes, there’s a labor shortage facing our state and nation. Yes, employers are having trouble not only finding but keeping qualified workers in the wake of the pandemic. And yes, Michigan lacks an active-duty military base teeming with transitioning service members who could stay and work in our state.
But when a veteran calls the MVAA looking for work, or when an employer calls us looking for workers, we know where to connect them. As the central coordinating point for Michigan’s 550,000-plus veterans and their families, we have the employment industry wired. In the words of our employment analyst, Joe Saur, if you have a veteran employment issue – no matter how challenging – “the answer is yes.” We will find a solution.
Here, then, are just a few of the resources and benefits we turn to for our veterans and/or employers:
SkillBridge. This Department of Defense program matches active-duty service members with 180 days or less left in service to interested employers. The service member continues being paid by the military while learning and training with the employer. Employers must fill out the form on the SkillBridge website and be prepared to wait a month or so for a response, as the SkillBridge team is small and busy with requests, Saur noted.
Army PaYS. The Partnership for your Success (PaYS) is an Army-specific program matching transitioning active-duty soldiers and Army Reservists with corporations including Amazon, Facebook and Tesla. Learn more at armypays.com.
Veterans’ Employment Services (VES). This is Michigan’s bread-and-butter veteran employment program – a free service through the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO). Veterans start the process by contacting Michigan Works! (1-800-285-9675 or michiganworks.org). From there, veterans with barriers to employment such as a disability or lacking a high school diploma will work with a Veterans’ Career Advisor (VCA) from LEO to prepare for employment. Then, when the veteran is job-ready, they’ll work with a Local Veterans’ Employment Representative (or LVER) from LEO to be matched with an employer.
LEO also provides Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) to both individuals with disabilities and companies. Potential employees get help preparing for, pursuing and retaining careers, while businesses get help in employee development, business consulting and corporate relations. In addition, private, for-profit employers that hire disabled veterans may qualify for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), a federal business credit facilitated through LEO.
Veteran Readiness & Employment (VR&E). This is a VA benefit (formerly Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment) for veterans with a service-connected disability. There are two VR&E employment specialists in Michigan, Mike Poyma and Dell McCaslin, who help veterans prepare for and get jobs. Poyma said the biggest issue facing veterans in the civilian workplace is getting used to the more relaxed, less disciplined culture. Learn more at the VR&E website.
InvestVets. This community-based organization works to reduce the military-civilian culture gap by offering free virtual network sessions between veterans and employers from various industries in Michigan. Learn more at investvets.org.
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). This Department of Defense office promotes cooperation between the National Guard/Reserves and civilian employers, and also helps resolve conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment, noted Gary Aten, state chair of the ESGR’s Michigan chapter. Learn more at esgr.mil.
WhyMI app. This free MVAA app, available through Google Play or the Apple App Store, provides a real-time job board for veterans categorized by region, employers and job categories, along with information on health care, housing, education and other resources for veterans.
VETERANS’ EMPLOYEE GROUPS
Finally, our conference panelists agreed that perhaps the most important factor for retaining veterans in their companies was forming a vibrant veterans’ employee group, which builds comradery and company pride at the same time.
At Meijer, mVets is the retailer’s veterans’ employee group devoted to creating a safe space for service members, veterans and their allies to build community and share their voices and experiences.
At the Michigan State Police, some 30% of employees are veterans, and its veterans’ resource group takes pride in sending care packages to its deployed service members, said group member Katelyn Hammond, a sergeant with the MSP.
Office furniture manufacturers Steelcase and Haworth both have veterans’ employee groups that provide advocacy and team building for their many veterans.
And Rocket Companies has a veterans’ employee group that supports its veterans and their spouses with numerous opportunities and events, including meeting the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Cavaliers. Rocket’s Corey Kelly, a Navy veteran, said company research shows employees who are involved in a resource or affinity group are more likely to be promoted and to stay with the company.
“When people are part of an organization that cares for them,” Kelly said, “they’re more likely to be successful and you as a company are more likely to be successful as well.”
So here’s to vibrant veteran employee groups, successful companies and the hiring of our veterans. And remember, if you have questions or issues about veteran employment, just let us know at 1-800-MICH-VET. The answer is yes. We’ll find you a solution.
Call 1-800-MICH-VET (1-800-642-4838) or visit the MVAA's employment webpage to learn more about veteran employment benefits.