Chapter Corner

Tactics for Recruiting Veterans

Posted in: Features, April 2014

If you had the opportunity to hire a new apprentice who could follow directions, think on his or her feet, learn complicated skills quickly and demonstrate them accurately, bounce back from difficult situations, work well on a team, and exhibit a strong sense of dedication and commitment to an organization, would you? You’d probably jump at the chance!

Our military veterans are ideal future electricians, and many electrical contractors are well aware of this.

“Our trade association members actively recruit and hire our veterans,” said IEC Rocky Mountain (IECRM) CEO, Spenser Villwock, MNM, LEED AP. But the problem lies in finding these terrific candidates.

They are out there, and they are looking for jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the nearly 2.5 million post-9/11 vets at home, 178,000 of them are unemployed. That’s a 7.3 percent unemployment rate for this group of individuals.

How can your company find more veterans for your growing list of job openings? Here are some ideas that have been test-run by IECRM members.

Make it Easy for Job-seeking Veterans to Find You

Make sure your company website provides information about the benefits that it provides to veteran or active-duty military employees wherever job openings are posted on the website. Also, revise descriptions to include these benefits.

1st Electric Contractors, Inc. in Lakewood, Colorado, provides an extended leave of absence to all employees on active military duty, ensuring that their positions are not filled while they are away. Additionally, the company notes on its website that it pays for apprentice training and continuing education for all of its employees, including veterans. This is a benefit that a veteran may be looking for in an employer, especially if they are wary of navigating the GI Bill process.

ADK Electric Corporation in Englewood, Colorado, also provides an extended leave of absence benefit to its veteran employees, which make up about 20 percent of the company’s workforce.

“We strive to maintain some level of stability for these guys, so that they have a job to come back to. Their trucks and equipment are simply put on ‘mothballs’ until they get back,” said Kit Canaday, President of ADK Electric.

The benefit to putting these benefits out in the open on your website and in job descriptions is twofold. First, it will entice job seekers to want to work for your company, and second, it will help your website and your job postings get visibility in search engines by job-seeking vets.

For example, if Fred Smith, a post-9/11 Marine, is searching a major job search engine like for “military jobs” or “veteran-friendly companies,” you will want your search result to display. By placing these keywords into your job description, you are enabling your company’s posting to do just that.

Form Partnerships with Local Veteran-focused Organizations

“We work with Veterans Green Jobs,” said David Scott, Human Resources Manager at Encore Electric, Inc., an electrical contractor based in Englewood, Colorado. The company has about 50 veterans on its payroll, and they continue to recruit more with the help of Veterans Green Jobs, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping military men and women find employment in the energy sector.

As a chapter, IECRM is involved with several nonprofit organizations dedicated to veteran needs. In addition to working with Veterans Green Jobs and the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation, IECRM recently formed a partnership with Freedom Service Dogs of America, a Colorado-based nonprofit that rescues shelter dogs and trains them to become service dogs for veterans, active duty soldiers, children, and others with disabilities that include brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Their program, Operation Freedom, was developed to help returning veterans and military personnel transition from combat life to civilian life. This year, IECRM will dedicate two fundraiser holes at its Annual Golf Tournament to support Freedom Service Dogs of America.

Each of these organizations have very diverse functions, but they all serve a similar mission – to help veterans return to civilian life and, in many cases, settle into a “new normal” versus the normal that they knew before going to combat.

In fact, all IEC chapters have something to offer the men and women who served our country. IEC chapters provide educational programs and career opportunities, which help individuals and their families find financial freedom, job security, and independence. By partnering with another organization that works directly with veterans, you will be sharing your light at the end of the tunnel to an audience that may need it most.

A phone call to the local Veteran’s Affairs office can help find reputable organizations in your area that focus on veteran issues.

Reach Out to Local Workforce Centers

Workforce centers are required, by law, to provide priority of service to veteran job seekers. The law, part of the 2002 Jobs for Veterans Act, states that any program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (i.e., a workforce center) must give veterans priority over nonveterans in terms of delivering its services.

For example, a county workforce center shares job opportunities with veteran job seekers before opening up those opportunities to the public.

Reach out to the local workforce center and inquire if they provide similar benefits to veteran candidates. If they do, this is one way your business can connect directly with local vets, and it is generally free for an employer to submit jobs to a workforce center’s database.

Participate in a Job Fair

Last year, IECRM held its first Energy Industry Job Fair to help member companies fill over 200 openings for Journeyman electricians, apprentices, and other positions. We extended free booths to all of our members and donated a booth to Veterans Green Jobs.

The event was a hit! It helped IECRM’s members find qualified and driven candidates for their companies, it helped local people find rewarding careers, and it also helped IECRM publicize the four-year Apprentice Program and continuing education offerings to everyone who walked in the door.

If hosting a job fair is not feasible, search for local job fairs in which your company can participate. One great way to keep tabs on free recruiting opportunities is to sign up for your local workforce center’s e-mail list. IECRM receives e-mail updates every time the local workforce center is looking for employer participants, and IECRM shares these opportunities with its members. These job fairs are free to participate in.

Use Traditional Recruiting Tactics

In a recent survey of IECRM apprentices, many of them said that they found out about their current job through word of mouth from a friend or family member. If you’re not already offering referral rewards to your employees, you should consider offering a cash or gift card reward.

Communicate to your entire company that you are looking to bring more veterans on board. Word can travel fast and even across oceans. IECRM received an e-mail some time ago from an Interior Electrician currently deployed in the Army with just a few months left of his four-year commitment. He wanted to know how he could get involved in the apprenticeship program once he returned from service.

These are just a few things that you can do to recruit more of the men and women who served our country. Talent is out there, it just takes a little bit of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to find.

Samantha McCormick is the Marketing Manager at the IEC Rocky Mountain Chapter in Denver, Colorado.