The leader of Wisconsin’s support organization for veteran-owned businesses gave advice to employers, warned of misconceptions and listed some resources for veterans looking to enter the workforce.
Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Saul Newton said employers must be intentional with how they find talent as military members return home from their service and look for jobs. Around 4,500 veterans return to Wisconsin each year, and around 30,000 people return from military service to the Upper Midwest region annually.
Newton said employers should be savvy with candidates’ skillsets in order to fully use their talent and how it applies to their industry. Misconceptions and stereotypes can keep human resources departments from recognizing veterans’ skills and keep companies from benefiting from their experience, he added.
“Not all military members are suited for entry-level positions,” Newton said. “Some employers might not realize the benefits they have and what qualifications and skills they picked up in the military.”
Veterans also face other misconceptions like the perception of being underqualified and mental health, to which Newton said the military is a volunteer service and most veterans continue after service with impactful careers.
“We don’t want to minimize conversation around mental health, but we don’t want it to cloud perceptions,” he said. “Many people of all ages and skillsets leave the military and go on to have productive careers.”
The biggest challenge for people who leave military service and find jobs back home is transitioning out of regimented military life. The construction industry is uniquely suited to attract veterans because of the similarities to military work, which makes the challenge less difficult, Newton said.
“Every job in the military is project management,” he said. “The military instills problem solving aptitude and critical thinking skills that apply to construction in certain ways.” Safety and regulations and attention to detail are common between military and construction roles, which makes skills between the two sectors transferrable.
Some options for both military members leaving the service and employers to connect through include the Department of Defense’s Skillbridge project and the ETS Sponsorship peer program, Newton said. The veterans chamber also offers a quarterly Supplier and Contractor Briefing program, which teaches veteran business owners about opportunities to grow their business and break into the industry pipeline.
The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce is hosting the Wisconsin Veterans Business Conference on Thursday, which engages suppliers and contractors, features over 100 business and resource exhibitors and offers networking opportunities.