U.S. Chamber of Commerce Previews New Initiatives to Employ Veterans to American Legion

Aug 31, 2011, 17:25 ET from The American Legion

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 31, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Among the major events preceding its 93rd national convention in Minneapolis was a veterans hiring fair produced jointly by The American Legion and the United States Chamber of Commerce.  Legion organizers praised it as among the most productive of recent Legion-sponsored career fairs and credited the U.S. Chamber's participation, through its network of local and regional chambers of commerce, for its success. (http://www.legion.org/convention/158541/partnership-panning-out)

The Legion hiring event was the nineteenth in an initial series of 100 veterans career fairs to be co-produced by the U.S. Chamber and veterans' advocates nationwide as part of its 'Hiring our Heroes' initiative.  

On Wednesday, Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of veterans' employment programs at the U.S. Chamber, announced the impending rollout of three additional components in the organization's concerted campaign to employ military veterans.  The official announcement of the program expansion will be made on Veterans Day, said Schmiegel, but Legionnaires were being given a "sneak preview."

"On Veterans Day, the U.S. Chamber will launch a private sector national employment advisory council," said Schmiegel. "It will comprise the 25 biggest companies in America. Walmart, FedEx, TriWest (Healthcare Alliance) and Siemens have already agreed to do it.  And we're having discussions with companies that are industry leaders because, if we put 25 industry leaders together representing millions of jobs ... think about the impact we can have.

"But it is not going to be done with big business alone," he said. "We are going to exercise our network of state and local chambers to get as many of the three million small businesses that are part of it involved with veteran hiring; to commit to hiring one veteran when the conditions are right. If we can just get 10 percent of them to hire one veteran (apiece) by 2013 – just one – we will cut veterans' unemployment in half. That's a movement."

"And third, we're going to create an IT (information technology) architecture that veterans and employers can go to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," Schmiegel said. "Veterans will have the tools they need (there) to transition by getting advice on resume building (and) by getting advice on how to get a mentor. We'll have a network of millions of mentors, men and women just like you, who are willing to help veterans. It'll be a cradle to grave system. It's not just about the hiring fairs.  It's about the day before and the day after.  

"I want to stress one thing," the Chamber V.P. said, "This is not about charity.  It's not about good PR.  This is about connecting talented veterans and military spouses with jobs that we know exist in the private sector.  Veterans are the most resilient, strong, adaptive team players who will rise to any challenge and never recognize failure."

Schmiegel retired as a lieutenant colonel after a 20-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps two years ago. "I am often asked why we do this for veterans when the rest of the nation is suffering from high unemployment.  As a veteran myself I want to say 'are you kidding me?'  We have men and women putting themselves in harm's way every day and serving their country and you ask the question?  Really!  

"We have men and women in uniform who leave their families and loved ones behind for 12 months and we shouldn't make a special effort to help them find jobs?  But, instead, I leave those personal feelings aside and make the business case for why we should hire military veterans and their spouses. I talk about the increase in productivity. I talk about effectiveness. I talk about efficiency. I state 'what's good for business is good for the economy.'

"We believe that there is an incredible opportunity right now; an incredible moment in time to really make a difference.  Everyone's talking about this. The White House is talking about this. The Congress is talking about this. Non-profits are talking about this. And, the business community is talking about it. Martin Luther King once said, 'the time is always right to do what is right.' There has never been a moment in time more right than this."

"Finally, you have my word as a Marine that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is going to continue to do everything it can every day to make a difference in the lives of our nation's heroes," he said. "Namely, by helping them find jobs in the private sector."

SOURCE The American Legion