It started with a statistic in the Dayton Daily News: “Statewide, post-9/11 veterans were unemployed at a rate of 14.8 percent at the end of May, representing about 8,000 of the 54,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the work force.”
That was the line that made Scott A. Mazzula, president of the Troy, Ohio-based Hobart Institute of Welding Technology reach out to the paper’s editor for more information about the veteran employment crisis. It turned out that 8,000 was actually a low estimate. And that’ just Ohio!
Mazzula did the math: the welding industry desperately needs skilled workers and veterans need jobs. A lot of focus has been placed on attracting young people, like high school graduates, into the industry. Yet, the largest source of employees after students is the 1,500,000 veterans between the ages of 20 and 49. Mazzula recognized an opportunity to help; he would offer the benefits of an education in welding to veterans.
Now Mazzula is an outspoken proponent for building awareness about hiring veterans within the industry. “Hiring a veteran is not a charity. Hiring a veteran is an investment,” Mazzula told audiences at last year’s FABTECH. Veterans boast strong decision making skills, analytical thinking and communication. They’re also dependable, disciplined and have a solid work ethic.
Mazzula stressed that veterans are an asset in classroom settings, where their increased maturity can improve the behavior of the entire class. The biggest problem facing Mazzula and others interested in veteran employment is getting the word out about the education opportunities available to veterans, including education funding through the Post-9/11 GI bill.
“Where do I start if I want to reach out to veterans and tell them about our school?” Mazzula asked himself. It turned out that every county in Ohio has a County Veterans Service Office tasked with helping returning veterans and their families with everything they need, from finances to health care, and more.
The problem is that many veterans don’t know these offices exist, and they don’t register. So Mazzula began reaching out to offices across the state, pulling them into a network designed to help spread the word about welding. Before long, Mazzula was involved with other veteran outreach organizations and schools across the country, in addition to social media.
According to Mazzula, the key to tapping into veterans isn’t just to get involved, but to stay involved. Leaving a catalogue at the veteran’s office or sending an e-mail isn’t enough. Personal connection is essential. “It’s tough to email a handshake, you know? You can’t fax a thank you.” Mazzula said.
Today, the Hobart Institute of Welding works with the United Association and Hiring Our Heroes, among other groups, to raise awareness among veterans and employers. The school also forms alliances with employers and programs to ensure that the veterans being trained are specialized in skills the industry needs.
For more about Hobart’s efforts on behalf of welders watch Scott Mazzula’s Veterans to Welders FABTECH presentation on the AWS YouTube channel. To hear more about veterans’ opportunities in the welding industry, stay tuned for our next few blog posts about what the industry is doing to combat the veteran employment crisis.