By David Johnston, manufacturing manager metal supply at Arconic
Every day, thousands of veterans retire from the military, struggling to match their passion with their next career move. Many don’t fully recognize that the skills they’ve honed, the experiences they’ve had and the values they’ve lived during their service are those that can translate extremely well to manufacturing careers. Smart hiring managers are the ones that commit time and resources to hiring and advancing veterans in the workplace because they recognize the unique assets we veterans offer.
While we know firsthand what our military brothers and sisters are capable of and how valuable their insights are, helping America’s military veterans transition into manufacturing is easier said than done. By working together throughout the manufacturing supply chain to develop a strong network of veteran ambassadors who can lead the charge, we can make a compelling case that attracts the best and brightest veteran talent to a wide range of manufacturing jobs.
As veteran ambassadors, we each play a critical role that positively impacts the lives of other veterans. Today, The Manufacturing Institute and Arconic Foundation released a video that highlights the value veterans bring to the manufacturing workforce and encourages veterans to explore the career options available in manufacturing. The video shows a real, tangible example of Arconic’s veterans resource group at work, helping our employees adjust to civilian life, and ultimately, finding a home at Arconic.
At Arconic, we are committed to helping veterans prepare for success in their civilian careers; we are present across the United States at military recruiting fairs and transitioning summits; we direct support to military spouses; make available community volunteering opportunities that extend veterans’ service into their communities; and engage newly hired vets in special onboarding experiences. Our aim is to make the best possible use of their skills and create an environment of inclusivity. The company supports an employee resource group (ERG) for veterans and non-veteran allies at our locations around the world. In military terms, the veterans ERG is a “force multiplier” for Arconic.
Leadership. Team deployment. Project management. Supply chain expertise. Technical and engineering skills. Loyalty. Goal orientation. These are just some of the skills that are unique to veterans and highly valuable in today’s advanced manufacturing environment. With the right support and knowledge of what veterans bring to the table, American manufacturing stands to gain so much from these individuals in their post-military careers.
“Would support jobs, promote innovation and enhance the competitiveness of manufacturers across the United States.”
By Diane Wilhelm, chief engineer advanced manufacturing, Harley-Davidson Motor Company
As a West Point grad in the early years of integrating women and serving in the U.S. Army for 12 years, I often reflect on my military roots and the foundation that the military has provided me for success in my manufacturing career. My transition from Army boots to steel-toe boots was not without challenges.
As young Lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry Division, I was elated to have the opportunity for my platoon to support one of the combat brigades in an upcoming FTX (Field Training Exercise). I reported to the prep meeting and realized that I was the only female in the room. Halfway through the meeting, the colonel noticed me, stopped the meeting and asked why I was there. I responded, “I am your military police support, sir.” He shook his head negatively. Everyone in the room stared at me, but I stayed, and they continued the meeting.
Afterward, I waited until most had left and approached the colonel. I told him that I had the best platoon in the company and that we would not fail him. I told him that if he didn’t agree that I and my platoon were the best, I’d never again set foot in his area. I asked for him to give me a shot, unless he was concerned about a female making other men look bad. He stared at me for a long time before answering, “Lieutenant, you’re in.” From that moment on, my platoon shined and he asked for me by name.
For women in nontraditional career fields, I sum this up into one mantra: “show no fear!”
As a new maintenance engineer/supervisor for a major automotive company, I noticed a large, colored paper sticking out from underneath a stack of newspapers when I entered the pipefitter’s break area. Making small talk, I purposely picked up the newspaper exposing the large paper that had 30 blocks drawn on it, almost all of them colored in with red or blue; some had both. The men fell silent. I picked up the colored paper and asked, “What is this?” After a lengthy pause, the millwright replied, “It’s a pool.” “About what?” I probed. The men started to squirm. The same millwright answered, “It’s a pool about you. Blue indicates when you will cry, and red is when you will quit.” I was stunned! The tradesmen all stared at me. I looked back at the paper and realized that my peer supervisors had bought blocks, too.
I had a choice. I took out my wallet and said, “How much to get in?” He answered “5 bucks.” I gave him 10 and told him to mark me down for NEVER on both! I won, of course, and donated the money to the department holiday meal fund.
You cannot always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your attitude. #ShowNoFear #BootsAreBoots
By John Buckley, manager of military relations at Koch Industries
I served more than 30 years in the Army, with tours of duty from Bosnia to Iraq. But perhaps my biggest test of all came when I returned home: transitioning to the private sector.
Millions of veteran service members face the same challenge every day, with another million troops returning to the private sector over the next five years. It is also a tremendous opportunity—both for those who honorably served and for a grateful nation. As the manager of military relations for Koch Industries—one of the largest manufacturers in the United States—I see firsthand the value of recruiting and retaining employees who have served.
Almost 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled over the next decade, but the vast skills gap means that roughly 2 million of these positions will stay vacant, according to a study from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. These open roles mean decreased productivity, lower earnings and a reduced GDP, as well as less innovation and flourishing in society.
Companies and entire industries are losing embedded institutional knowledge as an entire generation retires. As technical education offerings decline in public schools, we may have new workers who may lack the skills necessary to do these jobs.
But there’s hope. It is no coincidence that employers of military veterans, including Koch, have found that the traits that define the men and women who served our nation—character, dedication, perseverance and courage—match those of our most successful employees.
At Koch, we educate both business leaders—on understanding military culture and its applications in our daily business—and employed veterans—on how to recruit more quality talent. We recognize that only about 7 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. As such, we take great care to bridge the gap between employees with different experiences and skill sets. We hold a monthly Skype session with veterans, and our military careers website features helpful tips on searching for jobs, writing a resume and preparing for interviews. Our website devotes a section to veteran recruiting, including a guide to managing the transition to civilian life. The results are undeniable: For the past two years, we have increased our protected veteran hires by an average of 30 percent each year, and Koch has received six awards from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program, for providing a supportive workplace for employees who served.
Adaptable, accountable and focused on compliance, veterans have years of skills, knowledge and leadership under their belt—important assets for any line of work, but especially manufacturing. When we hire veterans at Koch, we know that we are getting individuals with a proven track record of making their team—and their country—even better.
John Buckley is manager of military relations at Koch Industries. He is a retired U.S. Army colonel who commanded soldiers in combat and peacekeeping operations and contributed to the strategic and operational planning of multiple operations.