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Tom Donohue: Hiring Our Heroes the Right Thing — and the Smart Thing — to Do

Veterans have sacrificed for us, and we should honor them with job opportunities

This Veterans Day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and businesses across America highlighted one of the most tangible ways to honor our veterans: meaningful employment opportunities.

Nationwide, 1 million veterans are out of work. A staggering 27 percent of young veterans ages 18 to 24 are unemployed. And as forces are drawn down in Iraq and Afghanistan, tens of thousands of service members will separate from the military and enter the civilian work force. We must welcome these heroes home to an open, robust job market and work to stem the rising tide of veterans’ unemployment.

The case for hiring our heroes is an easy one. They have sacrificed for our nation, and our nation should honor their sacrifices with opportunities. But it isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also the smart thing.

Veterans are disciplined and have proven their work ethic through military service. They’ve received world-class technical training and are able to lead and work on a team. They are flexible, adaptive, and quick problem solvers. In short, they are very attractive job candidates.

What’s more, there is a widening skills gap in America that veterans are uniquely positioned to fill. In fact, 90 percent of military occupations are directly transferable to the private sector. But one of the biggest challenges facing veterans is demonstrating how the skills they’ve honed in the military are transferable to civilian work.

For example, a chief petty officer who serves as a cook on a Naval ship must be an adept inventory manager and logistician to do his job well. That’s a skill set highly sought after in the private sector — and one that isn’t always easy to come by in applicants.

In an effort to link these qualified job seekers with top-level employment, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is partnering with state and local chambers and veterans groups to hold 100 Hiring Our Heroes job fairs across the nation. The Hiring Our Heroes program has already connected more than 55,000 veterans and military spouses with more than 2,500 employers in 37 states. More than 3,400 have gotten jobs so far. And we’re just getting started.

We’ve established a private-sector Veterans Employment Advisory Council to bring together America’s largest employers from across all industries and sectors to generate job-creation ideas for veterans. We’re also launching a nationwide grassroots campaign to get small businesses in on the action.

From top to bottom, the business community stands ready to honor those who have served us with what they rightly deserve — good jobs and a bright future.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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