This week the Call of Duty Endowment mourns the passing of Sergeant First Class Steve Robinson, US Army (ret.), a key member of our advisory board and a veteran who served his country with honor until the end. Beyond his work with us, Steve was a well-known advocate and funder for veterans’ issues nationally. I just saw Steve two weeks ago at an event focused on collecting data about the specific needs of vets in the LA-area. This was important work that Steve helped fund through his job at Prudential. He seemed in his prime—articulately and passionately describing how it was his hope to roll out this model nationally, such that services for vets could be more efficiently and effectively delivered. Always striving to help more—that was Steve Robinson.
Steve had a distinguished career in the U.S. Army that spanned more than 20 years, during which he served as a Ranger, medic in the Gulf War, and an analyst for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His commitment to veterans burgeoned when he retired from active service. He held leadership positions at three separate nonprofits and acted as an independent consultant for a variety of organizations that help service members re-enter civilian life, such as the Armed Forces Services Corporation, Swords to Plowshares, and the Coalition for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.
Here at the Call of Duty Endowment, Steve was invaluable. His insight and commitment to aiding job-seeking veterans energized our efforts. As one of the original advisory board members when the Endowment was formed in 2009, Steve brought with him a deep insight into social services providers and veterans’ needs. That guidance led us to contribute substantially to AMVETS and several other veterans employment non-profits who ultimately had great impact putting former service members to work.
The thousands of veterans aided through the Call of Duty Endowment, our fellow advisory board members, and countless others have been touched by Steve’s life and work. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family this week.
Reviewing our newly released 2013 Grant Report, I am reminded of the tremendous success our grant recipients achieved this previous year and how optimistic I am for even greater 2014 impact. The Endowment awarded $1.2 million in grants in 2013 to 12 veterans employment nonprofits—and these recipients didn’t disappoint. At an average cost-per-placement of $1,286, these organizations helped 840 veterans find careers (as a benchmark, the Federal Government spends roughly $3,000 to place vets in jobs, according to the GAO). This year we will award over $4 million in grants and are targeting four times the impact achieved in 2013.
I think of Hire Heroes USA, which uses its “recruitment to placement” approach to help nearly eight veterans per week find jobs (including Sgt Shannon Potts, USMC, on the report cover), or Still Serving Veterans great progress placing 173 vets in Alabama jobs, or AMVETS, which reached its goal of establishing 20 career centers across 14 states. I’m equally encouraged by the individual success stories highlighted in the report, the veterans who showed amazing resilience, obtaining employment in the face of obstacles ranging from combat stress to homelessness. These individuals’ stories bring our grant recipients’ efforts to life and remind all of us of why this work matters.
I’m also pleased with our initial steps in 2013 to reframe the national conversation on veterans employment, emphasizing their value in the workplace through unique data such as that provided by CEB’s Corporate Leadership Council. Understanding both the supply and the demand side of the veterans employment equation gives us all a fuller understanding of the challenges in landing vets good jobs and better equips us to solve them.
Finally, I’m incredibly grateful for the people and organizations that made 2013 such a successful year—a distinguished list that you’ll find on page 40.
Please take a few minutes to read about our collective progress, get to know our grant recipients, and explore the stories of individual veterans--let me know what you think!
This week we have the pleasure of awarding $900,000 in new Call of Duty Endowment funding to three of our Seal of Distinction winners, each headquartered in Los Angeles. The Weingart Center, U.S. Vets and the Salvation Army Haven have created unusual value in placing vets into quality jobs. With the help of our 2014 grants, these organizations can broaden their reach and improve their practices to serve still more veterans.
The Weingart Center, which received a $100,000 grant for 2014, brings veterans employment assistance to one of the nation’s most challenging populations: downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Working with a veteran population that faces serious impediments to stable, civilian life, The Weingart Center empowers veterans to find employment, combat poverty and break the cycle of homelessness. Despite the tremendous challenges of this population, The Weingart Center aids these veterans with marked financial efficiency.
U.S. VETS, which received a $500,000 grant for 2014, sustains a remarkable retention and placement track record working with a population of largely homeless veterans. Many of these homeless veterans live in U.S. VETS’ residential facilities while participating in workforce programs, developing self-sufficiency and learning life skills. Moving forward, U.S. VETS plans to tap into more job opportunities by actively cultivating relationship with more than 300 local employers in growth industries. The organization also works to foster partnerships with local nonprofits and to coordinate with local colleges to identify un- and under-employed veterans.
Salvation Army HAVEN, which received a $300,000 grant for 2014, uses a headhunter-like mentality to serves homeless veterans, or those at risk for homelessness. Many of these veterans face additional barriers such as disabilities, substance abuse and legal impediments to employment. The program uses in-depth case management, career coaching and placement assistance, as well as recruitment and liaising with employers. But more than simply finding veterans a paycheck, Haven matches veterans’ skills and experience with targeted job opportunities.
These three organizations help improve the employment outlook, and the quality of life, for hundreds of veterans in the greater Los Angeles area. I can’t wait to see their efforts expand in 2014.
Last year, AMVETS reached its goal of establishing 20 community-based career centers—widening the Lanham, MD-based organization’s reach to 14 states. With a new $250,000 grant from the Call of Duty Endowment, which we announced this week, AMVETS now stands to reach even more veterans in 2014.
The Seal of Distinction winner offers a national network of career centers run largely by trained volunteers. And while the organization reaches a national population, AMVETS keeps its focus local—often in places where there is no significant federal government support (like the VA). Local volunteers staff each career center, serving vets by helping them find nearby employment and, in turn, supporting the staffing needs of local businesses.
With continued funding, AMVETS and its volunteers are well-equipped to help job-seeking veterans. Congratulations, AMVETS. I look forward to seeing your 2014 efforts change the lives of veterans throughout the country.
Still Serving Veterans (SSV), our most recent Seal of Distinction winner to receive a 2014 grant, has great things in store this year. The Endowment awarded SSV $598,000 to serve still more job-seeking veterans – from its Huntsville, Alabama base and beyond. SSV’s three-prong approach to expansion this year includes:
Building the base. SSV plans to strengthen its Huntsville headquarters’ operations by improving IT infrastructure and incorporating new training processes.
Expanding strategically. Expanding beyond Huntsville will allow SSV to serve more veterans throughout Alabama. Thus, SSV plans to increase its reach into Montgomery, Mobile and the Fort Rucker/Dothan/Enterprise areas. Together with the current SSV Satellite office in Opelika, these strategically placed locations can provide multi-service, multi-component access to both veterans and prospective employers.
Synchronizing veterans services. SSV often collaborates with other public and private entities that provide veterans services. Using its 2014 funding, SSV will expand these relationships, making a more formal effort to identify and share best practices, lessons learned, research, and tools (including software). By using a more structured process for collaboration, SSV will facilitate greater synchronization among veterans services providers.
With the help of 2014 Call of Duty Endowment funding, the Veteran Staffing Network plans to grow substantially. Expansion will allow the organization to match skilled veterans with career opportunities throughout the country using its social enterprise approach – building bridges between veterans and employers, creating infrastructure to help each succeed, and addressing barriers to veterans employment.
With Endowment funding and the Easter Seals network as a mechanism for expansion, Veteran Staffing Network can make significant strides in 2014.
Last week, the Call of Duty Endowment announced a $250,000 grant award to St. Louis-based Corporate America Supports You (CASY). The grant marks the first of our 2014 awards to Seal of Distinction winners, who followed up on their initial $30,000 award last year with strong plans for scaled operations to help more vets find high quality careers.
With the help of 2014 Call of Duty Endowment funding, CASY is expanding its services by:
Adding staff to support high-need areas, specifically California, Texas, New York, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri
Strengthening partnership with State National Guard Bureaus and Reserves.
CASY performs job placement-focused outreach to the military and veterans community in a highly effective, disciplined and efficient manner. Staying connected to the community it serves brings CASY 300 new candidates a week – even without marketing. Among our Seal recipients, CASY holds the distinction of being one of the most efficient in terms of cost-per-veteran placed – typically less than $500 per placement. With more robust funding, CASY is poised to help many more veterans find jobs. I look forward to their success.
I’m excited to introduce “The Honest Truth,” the Call of Duty Endowment’s first 2014 Public Service Announcement--made through incredible efforts by Activision and 72 & Sunny. Since the Bureau of Labor and Statistics revealed data earlier this month on the rising unemployment rate for veterans ages 18-24, we’ve provided charts, infographics and public comment on the situation. But few can speak to this issue as well as young veterans themselves.
With this PSA, we give a face to the unemployment epidemic among young veterans – the hopes they harbor for work after military service, the stereotypes they encounter, and the resilience with which they continue to look for jobs.
Watch for yourself. And please share with friends and family via email, your Facebook page or on Twitter. These young veterans deserve a fair shot at employment, and we can help make that happen.
I’m deeply frustrated at the lack of progress in getting military medical and transportation professionals civilian jobs in their fields. It’s no secret that lacking civilian credentials often deters qualified veterans from getting jobs they’re well trained to do. Stories abound of vets who drove trucks in Afghanistan but can’t get a job driving big rigs on U.S. highways – or combat medics who have treated the most difficult combat wounds imaginable but cannot get a paramedic job back home.
But medical certifications pose unique challenges because individual states stipulate requirements. Federal legislation’s ability to address the issue is limited by a maze of state-specific rules. And for whatever reason, many states have not made this a priority. States have had as many years to fix this injustice as it took America to both build the atomic bomb and land on the moon.
The great irony is that the health care system needs these trained veterans – badly. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts health care will add 5 million jobs by 2022. The EMTs and paramedics field is poised to grow by a whopping 23 percent between 2012 and 2022. Health care needs manpower; veterans need jobs.
Encouraged by federal initiatives, some states have made progress on this front. Indiana and Kentucky now have laws that make it easier for veterans to become EMTs. Seven other states have streamlined both EMT and nursing license processes. Federal legislation that offers financial incentives to states that streamline these programs passed the U.S. House of Representatives in February 2013.
But too many states, and too many veterans, still need reform. It’s been more than a year since the president’s The Fast Track to Civilian Employment was issued. This track is still moving way too slowly.
This issue is non-partisan, pro-jobs and pro-veterans ; it’s something we can all agree upon. So I’d like to see public officials, task forces and public-private partnerships ratchet up their efforts. With hundreds of thousands of service members leaving the service, we can’t waste time with bureaucratic regulations that keep qualified veterans from getting jobs in industries that needs them.
Today, the Call of Duty™ Endowment announced plans to donate more than $4 million in grants to assist young veterans in attaining high quality careers. This comes amidst new numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showing that the unemployment rate for the youngest veterans (aged 18-24) increased this year, standing nearly seven percent higher than for their nonveteran counterparts (21.4 percent and 14.3 percent, respectively). Our new infographic presents the continued veteran employment problem in an easy to read visual format.
Sitting here in LA, I’d be remiss not talking about veterans in the entertainment industry, especially with the Academy Awards in the rear view mirror. And while Ellen DeGeneres’ pizza ordering gag for the award show attendees caught a lot of attention, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a less publicized, more meaningful contribution to the entertainment business.
This group, which didn’t exist 2 years ago and now has over 1,700 members, holds a unique and important role in helping veterans find good jobs. Founded by Mike Dowling, a former Marine, and Kyle Hausmann-Stokes, a former paratrooper, VFT serves as a networking organization for both current and former military service members pursuing entertainment industry careers.
In its own way, VFT addresses both the supply and the demand side of the veterans employment issue. Veterans who work, or aspire to work, in entertainment can post their professional creds on VFT’s site, designed for potential employers to find exactly the profile they’re seeking. They also post opportunity alerts targeted for specific skill sets and run exceptionally productive networking events (in an industry where connections are fundamental) that boast great speakers like Ron Meyer (President of Universal Studios), Robert Ulrich (casting director for CSI and Glee) and Gale Anne Hurd (producer for Walking Dead).
At the same time, VFT makes it easier for industry professionals and production companies to find veterans. VFT’s leadership team has built relationships with the industry’s top studios and talent agencies, from Dreamworks to CAA. The VFT directory mentioned above lists veterans and service members available for hire – actors, directors, writers, gaffers, etc. VFT verifies these members’ service before listing them. And interested industry representatives can contact VFT members via their directory profile. Entertainment companies can also speak at VFT events and post opportunities for members.
Veterans have contributed to the entertainment industry since its inception – from It’s a Wonderful Life’sJames Stewart to Young Frankenstein’sMel Brooks to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’sClint Eastwood to Adam Driver from HBO’s Girls. VFT’s work promises to bring yet another generation of talented military veterans to the industry’s forefront.
“CEOs […] have been consistently impressed with their hires, reporting that veterans are some of the highest-skilled, hardest-working employees they've ever had.” These were the words of First Lady Michelle Obama in her Wall Street Journal column, “Construction Companies Step Up to Hire Veterans,” last week. Mrs. Obama’s op-ed ran in conjunction with the first ever Veterans Employment in Construction Symposium, held at the Department of Labor. The event, tied to the White House’s Joining Forces initiative, celebrated an agreement among 100 construction industry companies to hire more than 100,000 veterans in the next five years.
Of the broad corporate response to Joining Forces, Mrs. Obama says, “these companies know that it's the smart thing to do for their businesses.” Joining Forces has drawn support from a range of corporations – Starbucks, Disney, UPS, to name a few – but this effort marks the first time an entire industry has come together to hire veterans.
These companies recognize a powerful opportunity. Growth in the construction business resulted in nearly 180,000 jobs created in the past year. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez predicts 1.5 million similar jobs to be added through 2022. Meanwhile, its forecast that the number of returning veterans will reach 1 million in the next five years. But beyond simply a mathematical match of supply and demand, construction careers and military experience can offer significant skill overlap.
For this reason, Call of Duty Endowment grant recipients are no strangers to this pairing. Consider Jae Barclay, a former infantry officer who found a career in the construction industry with the help of Still Serving Veterans. Barclay, who originally thought he was “going to be in the Army forever,” found himself challenged by the transition to civilian work. But Still Serving Veterans recognized the applicability of Barclay’s experiences for a new veteran-run construction company, which he now manages. The company intentionally seeks out veterans as their contractors – electricians, carpenters – thereby multiplying the opportunities for job-seeking veterans.
I wish the construction companies’ initiative success. To identify career opportunities for the growing number of transitioning servicemembers, we need to see still more collaborative efforts of this scale.
On a recent visit to Joint Base Lewis McChord outside Seattle I was exposed to a number of innovative programs the base is aggressively using to find great jobs for service members BEFORE they become veterans. One of the most promising is The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy that was unveiled last November. The 16-week course trains transitioning service members—while they’re on the last stint of their enlistments—to become software testers and developers. The training helps participants earn the certification necessary to pursue a career in development, applications and IT project management. The program, which has been so successful Washington state, will now expand to California and Texas bases.
Veterans who successfully complete the program have the opportunity to work with either Microsoft or one of their top tier partners. Bernard Bergen, an academy graduate and employee of Microsoft, summed up the program’s value well: “Public-private partnerships work. I am living proof.” Microsoft seeks to scale the program in the future, providing as many as 30-40,000 jobs in four-five years. These are great jobs that often result in new veterans earning salaries that are multiples of what they were making the military.
The tide of returning veterans and the growing tech industry have something to offer one another, as other veterans-in-technology jobs initiatives prove. Microsoft has set a great example by turning a problem into an opportunity that’s good for vets and for their business. I’m hoping other firms follow Microsoft’s lead.