How the MVAA and our partners are supporting veteran employment
Our third annual Veteran-Friendly Employers (VFE) conference brought together more than 75 business leaders and veteran stakeholders with a vested interest in hiring and retaining veteran talent.
The event, held Sept. 26-27 in Traverse City, featured sessions on how to hire veterans right now, employing veterans with different abilities and more.
Employers can learn more about the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency's VFE program and other resources for hiring veterans on our employer's webpage.
Veterans seeking help with employment, entrepreneurship, licensing and credentialing and other job-related resources can visit our veteran employment page or call 1-800-MICH-VET to be connected to the appropriate resources.
Here is a sampling of coverage and resources from the MVAA Veteran-Friendly Employers Innovation Conference '23 ...
How our Gold-level employers go above and beyond
Atlas Space Operations, Gold-level Veteran-Friendly Employer, Traverse City
Last summer, Kerrie Kornexl, community outreach coordinator for Atlas Space Operations, got a resume from a young Marine Corps veteran that piqued her interest.
"It was clear from his email that he was exactly the kind of person we wanted on our staff," Kornexl said.
Unfortunately, she added, "his resume was just garbage."
So Kornexl, an Air Force veteran, wrote him back, suggesting he give it another shot and pointing him to some resume-building websites, including the Purdue Online Writing Lab's. The next morning, a revised resume was sitting in her inbox—much better, she said, but still needing a lot of work.
Kornexl went to her supervisor. While she was supposed to be looking at government contracts for Atlas to bid on, she knew this "22-year-old young man was worth my time." Her boss agreed, and Kornexl would spend the next several days meticulously helping the veteran improve his resume, cover letter and overall presentation.
After a week, the veteran formally re-applied for the job, this time with a superb resume, but in the end, it didn't work out because he couldn't afford housing in Traverse City. But Kornexl pointed him to openings with other companies and helped him land a job after all—a great example of one veteran helping another.
"I did all of this while I was not doing the job that made money for Atlas, and I had the full support of my supervisor," said Kornexl, who notes that three of Atlas' four founders are Air Force veterans. "I think that sort of support from the top all the way down is really remarkable."
Learn more about working at Atlas Space Operations, which supplies high-tech communications to the aerospace industry.
Roush Industries, Gold-level Veteran-Friendly Employer, Metro Detroit
When a leadership position came open at Roush Industries, John Gardner, the company's manager for veteran initiatives, knew just the veteran for it. This particular veteran had worked at Roush for seven years and definitely had the skillset to move up.
But he was satisfied with his job and hesitant to apply. Gardner, who had gotten to know the veteran through the company's Veteran Employee Resources Group (ERG), talked to him about the benefits. The job included more pay and was located at a Roush location much closer to the veteran's home. He was then driving an hour to work each way.
So the veteran went for the job—and got it, Gardner said, adding that it came with a $40,000 raise. "And he is very, very happy, as you can imagine," Gardner said. Not only that, but Gardner was able to hire another ex-service member from outside the company to fill the veteran's former position.
"So it was really two for one," he said. "Basically, we hired two veterans."
Gardner, an Air Force veteran, said he loves recruiting from within the company. "When I see leadership opportunities," he said, "I'm reaching out to our veterans through the ERG group to tell them about these opportunities. To let them know they can do more than they're doing now."
Roush Industries provides engineering, testing, prototyping and manufacturing services to the automotive, aerospace, defense and theme park industries. Learn more about the Roush VIP (Veterans Initiative Program).
Employment resources for veterans, transitioning service members, spouses and employers
Helmets to Hardhats - Michigan. Veterans interested in a construction career or skilled-trades training and registered apprenticeships can look to Helmets to Hardhats, a nonprofit organization with a growing Michigan presence. Apprenticeships come at no cost to the veteran and they can use Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to supplement their income. Sam Dougherty, the organization's Michigan representative, noted that employers can post job openings for free at helmettohardhats.org.
SkillBridge. The U.S. Department of Defense's SkillBridge program gives service members an opportunity to gain civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships or internships during the last 180 days of service. SkillBridge connects transitioning service members with industry partners in real-world job experiences. Don Wright of Rocket Companies said SkillBridge "is one the best ways we can attract transitioning veterans into our companies right now." Wright also noted that the SkillBridge team is small, so employers looking to register with the program need to be persistent. Wright is senior talent relationship manager for Rocket's Veteran Hiring Program.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN). A service of the U.S. Department of Labor, JAN provides free, one-on-one practical guidance and technical assistance on job accommodation solutions, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities.
Bridge My Return. Bridge My Return (BMR) gives transitioning service members, veterans and their spouses and caregivers real-time matches to jobs with military-ready employers, real-world coaching advice and a professional resume—all at no cost. BMR founder Bob Hogan said he created the company to attack the persistent problem of veteran underemployment—or veterans working in typically lower-paying jobs that don't match their advanced skillets and abilities. It takes about 20-30 minutes to complete a BMR profile; after that, the BMR software works for the veteran 24/7. As new jobs are added, the veteran is matched to new opportunities. Plus, the BMR application automatically creates a personalized resume you can immediately share with BMR employer partners or other employers you approach separately.
Veterans' Employment Services (VES). A division of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, VES helps veterans and their families secure meaningful careers in Michigan. The concept of veterans helping veterans is a trademark of the VES team and one of the keys to its success. Veterans face many challenges when transitioning out of the military – finding meaningful employment should not be one of them.
- Veterans in need of employment assistance should contact the nearest Michigan Works! One-Stop Service Center by calling 800-285-WORKS (9675) or visiting MichiganWorks.org.
- More information about Veterans' Employment Services is available at Michigan.gov/VES.
- Register today and start your job search at Pure Michigan Talent Connect at MiTalent.org.
Veterans to get extended postpartum care services
Veterans will soon have vastly expanded access to maternity care coordinators who provide a range of supportive services, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The announcement is part of the Biden administration's efforts to tackle the country's maternal health crisis and seeks to help a population that may be at heightened risk of pregnancy complications.
Under the extended service, which went into effect Sunday, maternity care coordinators will be available to veterans a full year after birth, up from eight weeks currently.
Veterans can receive coordinator services as soon as they have a positive pregnancy test, according to a VA spokesperson. Coordinators touch base with veterans every three months throughout the pregnancy. The new expansion extends the scheduled contacts for another twelve months after delivery.
Read the full story in Axios.
Air Force to review thousands of discharges for traumatic brain injury, PTSD
Thousands of Air Force veterans who received less-than-honorable discharges due to post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or other mental health conditions, as well as sexual assault or harassment, will have those separations automatically reviewed due to a new legal settlement.
The service consented to the reviews as part of a settlement in a nationwide class-action lawsuit -- Johnson v. Kendall -- brought by two airmen in 2021. The lawsuit took aim at the Air Force Discharge Review Board, or AFDRB, for wrongly discharging troops over misconduct linked to a military trauma, such as a combat- or training-related head injury or sexual assault.
Read the full story in Military.com.
MVAA Director Adam Hollier: Homeless veterans served our country. Now we should serve them
From the rural communities of the Upper Peninsula to the urban corridors of Metro Detroit, thousands of Michigan's military veterans are living in shelters, on the streets or crashing on friend's couches and it is completely unacceptable.
These veterans put their lives on the line for our country and now they're homeless.
It's a longstanding and widespread problem. Today, according to the best available data, there are 21 homeless veterans living in Dickinson County in the western U.P., 173 homeless veterans in southern Michigan's Calhoun County and 600 homeless veterans in Wayne County, home of Detroit.
In all, 2,443 Michigan veterans—many with families—are homeless, according to the Homeless Management Information System. But this figure represents just those homeless veterans who have sought out services. As just about every expert and veteran advocate knows, that number is much higher based on the fact that so many of our homeless veterans go uncounted.
While some progress has been made over the past few years, veteran homelessness remains a persistent and complex challenge spanning the demographic groups. Veterans of color continue to be over-represented in the homeless population. We've seen a huge increase in the number of older veterans experiencing homelessness. Women veterans are twice as likely to become homeless as non-veteran women.
Under the Whitmer administration, the state of Michigan invested $2 million this year to combat the problem through the Michigan Veteran Homelessness Prevention Grant. The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) will distribute these funds, in the form of $150,000 grants, to entities around the state that serve homeless veterans and their families. In particular, the MVAA is looking for innovative approaches to supporting homeless veterans from all backgrounds and eras.
To fully attack the problem of veteran homelessness, we must address the underlying factors, starting with an overall lack of affordable and safe housing. Substance abuse, mental health challenges and financial insecurity also play a role. Importantly, too many of our veterans experience social isolation after rejoining civilian life and fail to get connected to a meaningful support network.
But help is out there—throughout the state of Michigan. At the MVAA, our mission is to connect Michigan veterans to the local, state and national resources that can help them thrive in all facets of life and avoid the crises that can lead to homelessness and suicide. Whether it's connecting a veteran to a Veteran Service Officer to help them file a VA disability claim, lining them up with a peer mentor through our Buddy to Buddy program or linking them to emergency assistance or employment, education and health care benefits, we're here for all veterans and their families.
As we prepare to recognize World Homeless Day on Oct. 10 and Homeless Awareness Month in Michigan in November, it's important to remember that those veterans who are sleeping in their cars and asking for help on street corners once put their lives on the line to serve our country. We should do everything within our power to help them thrive as civilians. How can you help?
- Veterans. Call us at 1-800-MICH-VET or visit Michigan.gov/MVAA for assistance.
- Organizations and businesses: Join our Michigan Veteran Connector program to better reach and serve your customers and clients who are veterans.
- All of us: Volunteer time at food banks, community kitchens, homeless shelters or VA medical facilities. We can also volunteer at Veterans Stand Down events, which provide supplies and other services to homeless veterans. Or we can donate to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
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