This week, our nation took time to celebrate the enormous contributions and sacrifices of those who have served in our Armed Forces. Just in time for Veterans Day, the Arizona Chamber Foundation released its latest policy brief, Economic Opportunity for Arizona Veterans. This new report highlights the importance of veteran employment and outlines specific policy recommendations for Arizona.
Arizona is home to an estimated 76,000 Second Gulf War veterans. According to national unemployment numbers for August 2012, these veterans face an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent, compared to the national rate of 8.1 percent. These veterans serve as an untapped resource for Arizona employers – one that has the ability to significantly grow and help diversify Arizona’s economy.
Military service prepares veterans with work ethic, teamwork and leadership skills. There are clear economic opportunities and synergies between the talents veterans bring to the workforce and the needs of private industry. Yet many veterans continue to face obstacles when transitioning to civilian employment. As the report recognizes, it’s incumbent on business and elected leaders to harness this talent by:
1) Adopting best practices for hiring and retaining veterans
2) Implementing policies to facilitate the transition from military to civilian life
3) Streamlining and clarifying the wealth of public, private and non-profit resources that are available
To that end, the Arizona Chamber has established the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee with a vision of making Arizona one of the most attractive states for veterans to live and work. The committee serves as a resource and connector for employers that are interested in helping veterans transition from military service to civilian employment. The committee also works to support public policies that aid in this transition.
The committee has created a resource toolkit to help veterans and employers navigate the wide array of resources available. Additional next steps in addressing this issue include:
1) Finalizing a specific policy proposal to allow relevant military experience to count toward the certification requirements for occupations requiring a professional license.
2) Developing a strategy for disseminating company best practices for hiring and retaining veterans, reservists and National Guardsmen.
3) Partnering with like-minded organizations and interested elected officials to provide meaningful connections between employers and veterans.
Media response to these efforts has been overwhelmingly positive. Yesterday’s edition of Arizona Illustrated featured Suzanne Kinney, executive director of the Foundation and Captain Craig Doyle, chairman of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, in a discussion on the report’s findings and the importance of this topic. The issue is gaining traction and the efforts of Arizona businesses are being recognized.
It’s important to acknowledge the cross-section of Arizona Chamber member companies that were interviewed for the Foundation’s report: Amazon, Intel, Magellan Health Services, Northern Arizona University, Raytheon, Swift Transportation, University of Phoenix, USAA, and Wells Fargo. These companies along with the Arizona Department of Veterans Services provided valuable insight regarding best practices for recruiting and retaining vets. Many other chamber member companies, such as US Airways with their nationally-recognized Honor Flight Network, are taking action to support veterans as well. A key goal of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee is to help other interested employers adopt proven strategies that will lead to more veterans successfully transitioning to civilian employment.
The Chamber also owes many thanks to Captain Craig Doyle for his leadership and continued service. An Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, Captain Doyle recently returned from the Asian Pacific Theater, his third activation since September 11, 2001. While there, he was the first Naval Reserve Officer to serve as Commanding Officer of the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka. His mission included all operational, planning and logistical support for the Far East region. With both business and military leadership experience, Captain Doyle brings indispensable personal experience to this important endeavor.
We look forward to further advancing the mission of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee during the 2012 legislative session and continuing the recognition of this issue throughout the state. We will be working diligently to help more Arizona businesses implement proven programs to recruit, promote and retain veterans and to advance public policies that support veteran employment and entrepreneurship.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry