#MDCCGoodWork: Lighting the path to success for transitioning service members

(January 29, 2018 – ANNAPOLIS, Md.)Adaptability. Quick thinking. Strong instincts. The ability to execute a plan. These are all things employers look for in a new employee. They’re also characteristics of military veterans.

To help employers find those veterans for management-level jobs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation created the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program. It’s a business-specific program to identify and recruit the right transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses at no cost to the companies.

The program lets employers evaluate these veteran fellows in real-world scenarios over time. Meanwhile, the candidates gain firsthand experience in how a business operates.

Since the program’s inception in 2015, the CFP has graduated more than 800 fellows from 12 fellowship sites, including the National Capital Region encompassing Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. That region hosts more than 50 of the 150 companies that have signed up nationwide, including Maryland Chamber members UPS and Lockheed Martin.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jimmy Gaw applied to the program hoping to learn civilian corporate culture and find senior-level executive mentorship.

“I learned a tremendous amount of information about how Lockheed Martin works and what value I could provide to the team from the start,” said Gaw.

When the fellowship ended, Lockheed Martin offered Gaw a job. He now works in rotary and mission systems in Hanover, Maryland.

Service members must be on active duty and within six months of transition, or be a veteran within four years of separation from the military, in order to apply. Once selected, candidates are matched with companies based on the skills and preferences of both parties. The National Capital Region program also accepts military spouse participants. Spouses who graduate from the program have an exceptional rate of hire.

“I think the biggest hurdle facing jobseekers today is talking to a person versus the automated application process,” said Chelsea Bridges, a spouse fellow in the Capital Region program. “Hiring Our Heroes puts candidates right in front of prospective employers, giving them a competitive edge.”

Bridges has already accepted a position as a talent acquisition coordinator with her host company, COMSO Inc., in Columbia, Maryland.

Transitioning service member fellows remain on active duty during the fellowship, receiving their pay and benefits from the Department of Defense. Hiring Our Heroes pays military spouse and veteran fellows a stipend during their fellowships. Companies can train and familiarize their prospective employees over the course of the program before they extend a job offer, making the program a win-win for both the host organization and the fellow.

Interested organizations can learn more and apply to participate by visiting the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program website. Employers can also find alternative options, like speaking opportunities for senior-level leaders during weekly classroom training days.

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