It’s hard to repay a debt written in blood and sacrifice. Unfortunately this debt to our veterans often goes unpaid. And in bad economic times, when work is hard enough to find for non-veterans, it somehow seems as if this debt slips ever further from our minds. No matter what “assisting a veteran” back into civilian life means, be it support through life changing wounds, therapy, or even simpler things like basic health care and work, returning service men and women often do not receive enough help.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest road blocks in this process continues to be dispelling unfounded concerns and negative stereotypes surrounding veterans in the workplace. Employers often fear that the aftermath of war, in the form of PTSD or other hidden disabilities, might make veterans unstable and potentially dangerous elements in the work place. In reality, the numbers surrounding these kinds of cases are few and far between.
Employers also worry about the costs of incorporating injured veterans into their workforce. However, Nancy B. Adams, Branch Chief at the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, notes that most traumas can be addressed with relative ease, and the average cost of accommodating an injured veteran is only $500. Stereotypes of soldiers being good with orders but bad at thinking outside the box also worry employers who don’t want to be bogged down in micromanagement, but this again is a myth. In fact, the opposite is often true. Military training is specifically tailored to encourage thinking creatively in addition to obeying the chain of command.
Fortunately, an increasing number of veteran assistance programs have helped employers see past the stereotypes and embrace veteran workers. For example, in 2011 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce created a program named Hiring Our Heroes: “a nationwide initiative designed to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment.” And in 2012, Lockheed Martin joined GE, the Manufacturing Institute, Alcoa, and Boeing in a collaborative program called Get Skills to Work.
Two other organizations are working hard to make sure the manufacturing and welding industries challenge negative stereotypes and provide economic opportunities back home, where veterans are often forgotten. Helmets to Hardhats and the United Association’s Veterans in Piping Program (VIP) help veterans maximize their unique skill sets as they transition from soldiers to welders. Battling the negative stereotypes surrounding veterans is a critical part of their mission. However, their primary function remains helping veterans find meaningful and gainful employment. To this end, both organizations work with military and industry leaders to offer free training and promising jobs to veterans. Introducing disciplined and highly trainable veterans into the workforce will help lower the unemployment rate for returning service members and ease the demand for skilled labor.
The major difference between the two organizations is scope. Helmets to Hardhats works with National Guard, Reserve, retired and transitioning active-duty military service members to help veterans find work in a variety of building and construction specialties. In 2007, Helmets to Hardhats also created a Wounded Warrior program to train and support injured veterans returning to civilian life. VIP also offers high-quality skills training and jobs in the pipe trades to veterans and active duty military personnel preparing to leave the service. The organization’s video and photo gallery displays its unabashed sense of community and pride in the veterans it supports.
Whether you’re a retired service member or an employer looking for the kind of skill set a veteran has to offer, we encourage you to look into VIP, Helmets to Hardhats, Workshops for Warriors, Wounded Warriors Veterans Welding Training Program, and the other veterans’ assistance programs mentioned above.
Veterans Welding Training Program
From Warrior to Welder: One Veteran’s Path to a Career in Welding
Veterans to Welders: Career Building America’s Finest
Negative Stereotypes Hamper Veterans’ Employment Opportunities
Workshops for Warriors