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Companies can work to find jobs for veterans

By BY TOM PAUKEN
Nov. 13, 2012 at 5:13 a.m.

Tom Pauken

No group of Americans has sacrificed more for the cause of freedom than our veterans. And in serving our nation around the world, our military leaders learn skills highly prized in many different walks of life.

That's why it's critical for us to do everything we can to not only honor that service with words, but ensure that talent is put to good use when a veteran decides to re-enter civilian life.

Few businesses are as visible in our state as the Texas Medical Center (TMC), and for TMC, helping our veterans find civilian work is nothing new. TMC, and its member institutions, started at the top by integrating support for our military into their corporate cultures.

Three executives in particular have a heart for our returning veterans.

TMC's President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Richard Wainerdi helped set up a task force on military hiring comprised of TMC's member institutions. The task force - entitled "Red White and YOU!" - examines the job recruitment process, looks for new ways to reach out to veterans and finds ways to translate military skills and training into civilian course credit.

Many key health care executives at TMC and its member institutions are themselves veterans, and it shows. As two examples, Drs. James H. "Red" Duke and John Holcomb - both of whom served in the Korean War - apply their experience and know-how in TMC's efforts to welcome our troops back into the civilian workforce.

TMC's task force is so successful that the governor and the Texas Workforce Commission decided to try and emulate its work statewide and is hosting job fairs under that title in cities across the state.

Victoria's event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 15 at 120 S. Main St.

Hiring veterans is not only the right thing to do for our country, but it also makes good business sense. In the military, young men and women learn many skills, values and practices that are very valuable in the civilian world. The military values teamwork, punctuality, persistence, grace under fire, accuracy and other sought-after qualities.

"It was truly a unique moment in our history. When we held our job fair for returning veterans during the summer, it was the first time that our institutions had come together to do a job fair. I saw recruiters actually handing off resumes and candidates to other institutions, if they did not have any positions themselves," said Patricia Mitchell, TMC's Senior Vice President. "All of that came from the inspiration of our men and women in military service who sacrificed so much for us."

After I returned home from serving in Vietnam, I saw first-hand the challenges many returning veterans faced, and that's why I'm so pleased to see businesses help solve this problem. As the Commissioner Representing Employers, I was proud to present TMC with our Texas Veterans Employer Award last month for the organization's outstanding work in this area.

Employers statewide can learn a lot from TMC. Here are some of the key ways the TMC and its member institutions have created a veteran-friendly business culture:

Understand the military. Many skills taught in the military translate well in the civilian world. But sometimes the military uses different terms and titles to describe these skills than is common in the civilian world. TMC updated its resume-scanning programs to recognize military equivalents to civilian job requirements.

Words matter. One of the most important things an employer can do is state that it is military-friendly and encourages veterans to apply. Applicants want to go where they are wanted.

Working together is also important. One of the things that really impressed me about TMC's approach is the way the member institutions are helping each other. It's not uncommon for one institution to refer a veteran to another institution if they don't have an opening that meets that person's requirements. TMC also works with our state and federal agencies that assist veterans.

Reach out to veterans groups. There are many veterans' associations and state and federal programs that help veterans find work. TMC works with these organizations and programs.

Sadly, our veterans unemployment rate exceeds the general unemployment rate. That's why at the Texas Workforce Commission, I helped create the Texas Veterans Leadership Program to help put this talent to work. I also worked with President Ronald Reagan on this issue on the federal level during his administration.

But government cannot - and should not - do this on its own. We need more private-sector businesses to follow the excellent example set by Texas Medical Center and Drs. Wainerdi, Duke, and Holcomb.

Tom Pauken is Commissioner Representing Employers on the Texas Workforce Commission and Author of "Bringing America Home."

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