Veterans: A Strong Talent Source for Employers

Certain qualities are valuable in any business and industry, such as integrity, work ethic, adaptability, and problem-solving and decision-making skills. Veterans bring these traits and many others to their new companies when they enter the civilian workforce.

In the manufacturing industry, where a significant talent shortage is looming in the next decade, veterans offer companies a substantial pool of skilled candidates. Manufacturing is already the largest sector for non-government veteran employment; with 12% working in manufacturing.

Veterans are a large and diverse group, composed of individuals with a wide range of transferable skills and work experiences.

“Veterans are a strong talent source for companies who are struggling to fill open positions with highly skilled talent,” said Mario Kratsch, the creator of the ICATT Apprenticeship Program. “Veterans innately comprehend many of the skills these companies need to keep pace with the current economy and sustain business growth.”

Academic research supports a strong business case for hiring veterans. Studies show former military service members:

  • Exhibit high levels of resilience, advanced team-building skills, and strong organizational commitment
  • Are adept at transferring skills learned in a specific context to different tasks and situations
  • Are exposed to more advanced technology and technology training than their non-military peers, and are able to use this knowledge across various work responsibilities
  • Are comfortable with uncertainty, able to act quickly and decisively when faced with uncertainty and change
  • Assume high levels of trust among coworkers and leaders (a strong predictor of high-performing teams and organizational cohesion and morale)


Apprenticeships: A Quality Option for Service Members Joining the Workforce

Many apprenticeship or on-the-job training programs, including the ICATT Apprenticeship Program, are “Approved for GI Bill,” by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Since 1944, the GI Bill has helped millions of veterans pay for their education in college, graduate school, and training programs. Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, veterans can receive up to 36 months of benefits.

Veteran apprentices enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs may qualify for a monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies, in addition to their apprenticeship wages. Employers can use this benefit to recruit talented veterans to their approved apprenticeship programs. They also often receive GI Bill subsidies that offset the cost of apprentice wages.

Joshua Barron, a U.S. Army veteran in his second year of an ICATT Apprenticeship for CNC machining, is applying some of his Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the program. He said he would recommend it to other veterans who want to use the capabilities they honed in the military and develop new in-demand tech skills.

“I wish I would have known about apprenticeship programs when I got out of the military,” he said. “For anyone similar to me, ICATT would be a good fit. The things I have experienced in my apprenticeship remind me of the close-knit ‘brotherhood’ that you find in the military. You have the opportunity to learn and grow. The sky is the limit with this career.”


Translating Military Experience into Manufacturing Excellence

But in order for manufacturing companies to truly reap the benefits of a veteran apprentice, there has to be a good culture fit.

Eric Asmussen, Deputy Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor, recommends that to create a successful apprenticeship for transitioning service members, companies must reflect on their current processes and be willing to adapt them.

“Veterans, especially, want to get things done and can get frustrated when they notice a problem and have a solution, but the company doesn’t seem to be open to change.”

The U.S. Department of Labor has developed an Employer Guide to Hiring Veterans stating that if the working environment does not meet veterans’ needs, they tend to leave an organization quicker.

To create a successful program, companies must ensure the following are in place:

  • A clear set of expectations for the current position
  • A known pathway for advancement within the organization
  • A mutual understanding of what clear and open verbal/written communication looks like
  • A mentor who can help veterans integrate into the organization’s culture
  • An understanding of the missions and impact of the organization

A common challenge — for veterans entering the civilian workforce and hiring managers who want to recruit more veterans — is a lack of understanding about the differences in both culture and terminology.

“It’s extremely helpful to have another veteran on the team that the transitioning service member can go to, to ask questions like, “Is this actually a problem, or just civilian life?” says Asmussen.

Jason Wasikowski, Senior Manager for Corporate Technical Training and Talent at Mauser Packaging Solutions, an ICATT Network Company, said he has had many conversations with veteran employees that have helped him understand the culture contrast between the military and the private sector.

“In the military, everything is regimented; there are clear expectations about your time and duties every single day,” said Wasikowski. “But in a private company, expectations aren’t clear, and schedules always in flux. It can be a huge paradigm shift. If veterans think that the company is undisciplined and employees aren’t dedicated, they may start looking elsewhere. Companies can solve this problem in apprenticeship programs by developing clear expectations and making training more structured and participatory. The good news is that putting better processes in place to make veterans successful has also improved processes in other areas of our company.”

Following up on promises made is also extremely important for veteran employees. “If you say you’re going to do something, a veteran wants to know that you will,” said Wasikowski. “If something changes and you can’t, it’s essential to follow up and explain.” Employers that make even well-meant promises but don’t follow through on them may be seen as untrustworthy. “It’s about integrity,” says Barron.

Expectations regarding the employee’s duties and responsibilities should be clearly laid out. An apprenticeship’s plan for the on-the-job learning should include specific objectives as well as  milestones to be reached. This applies to after the apprenticeship program as well. Barron explains, “I want to know what I need to do to reach the next level. And once I’m there, I want to know that my abilities are being fully utilized.”

The ICATT Apprenticeship Program is a GI Bill-approved apprenticeship program that helps companies implement a long-term workforce development strategy and match veterans with high-growth career opportunities.

Interested in starting a veteran-friendly apprenticeship program at your company? Contact us