by Sheila A. Roe, Sweek Engineering

The BCxA Northwest Chapter gathered for their 2020 Fourth Quarter meeting, which included a panel entitled, “Veterans in Commissioning,” to discuss the benefits of hiring veterans in the building commissioning sector. Hosted by Scott Usselman from EEI, the panel of military veterans included Travis Lynn (Marine Corps), Juno/Bristol Myers Squibb Company; Nate Mostajo, Army), EEI; and Mike Cato (Navy), Renton School District. The following article describes why, how and where, plus resources for hiring veterans who have been trained in technical and “soft” skills that closely correspond to providers of building commissioning services.

Let’s say you have a commissioning provider position to fill. You advertise on Monster or LinkedIn. You get some replies, but the respondents don’t thrill you. Maybe they have a track record of not staying on a job very long … or you get the feeling they don’t understand the importance of the work, or they won’t be able to communicate what you need them to convey to the right people. Or, perhaps you get no response at all. You have work lined up but you can’t find anyone you’re excited to hire.

What’s the deal?

Commissioning is a great career, it pays well, it’s interesting work, it’s never the same day twice. Why is it so hard to find someone to fill the position? Are you looking in the right place?

A potential source of qualified candidates is a vast and underutilized resource right under your nose — it’s the U.S. military! Over 200,000 trained and work-ready adults are transitioning out of the military every year. These are resourceful, team-oriented, reliable, decisive, flexible, tech-savvy, focused, educated, and, perhaps most importantly, highly trained – and trainable — people.

Many veterans are out of work. In the last year veteran unemployment rates doubled from 3.1 to 6.4%, with 568,000 unemployed or underemployed veterans in the United States as of September 2020. This is a vast pool of relevant talent that the commissioning profession can tap.[1]

If veterans are skilled, educated, and highly trained, why is their unemployment rate so high? Studies show there is a disconnect between the military and civilian world. If you have never been in the military it is hard to understand how their skills apply to industry.

But the truth is that veterans can make an immediate impact in the building industry workplace, especially in technical areas like HVAC, building and systems automation, energy efficiency and others that are representative of commissioning activities.

Here are skills that any veteran, from any branch, from any position will bring with them:

·         Focus: Veterans can focus on critical needs without getting distracted.

·         Flexibility: Veterans understand that plans are different than reality and can adjust their responses accordingly.

·         Reliability: Veterans will show up on time, every time, at any time. They also tend to stay in their jobs longer than the average 2.5 years of the civilian workforce.

·         Mission oriented: Veterans understand what it takes to get a job done and can keep things moving forward on all fronts.

·         Questioning attitude: Veterans are willing and able to ask the hard questions, no matter who it is they are asking, for goals to be met.

·         Team oriented: Veterans are experts at working in collaboration with a wide variety of people and groups. If you need someone who can talk to people on the shop floor as well as the Board of Directors, veterans have the skills to do that.

·         Unflappable: Veterans are pros at dealing with tense situations. If you need someone who stays cool under fire, you can’t go wrong hiring a veteran.

Hopefully, you’re thinking, “I would love to hire a veteran (or even a few), but I don’t know how to find them or how to judge their ability to do the job I have to fill.” Luckily there is a plethora of resources to help you bridge the gap between military and civilian job experience and also help you connect directly to veterans themselves.

Educate yourself and your team:

·         Look for organizations that advocate hiring veterans into the civilian workforce. See the reference list (below) for articles to start your search.

·         The Veterans at Work Certificate Program, offered by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), lays out a framework for employers who want to support veterans in the hiring process. It is a free, 10-hour, self-paced certificate program that teaches best practices to attract, hire, and retain veterans.

Find veterans where they are:

·         Transition Assistance Programs: Every branch has a program to assist in the transition from military to civilian life, including employment resources. These programs have frequent job fairs that can act as a direct conduit to find qualified veterans.

·         College job fairs: Over 65% of transitional veterans take advantage of the GI Bill and enter higher education after leaving the service.

·         Recruiters specializing in veteran placement: Many websites are designed to facilitate placement of veterans. Also check out Virtual Career Fairs and Recruiters.

It may take thoughtful restructuring of your hiring practices to integrate support for veterans into your employment strategy. The long-term benefits will far outweigh any inconveniences that may arise as you start this journey.

It’s good business to hire veterans — you will benefit from employees who are instilled with and experienced in meeting the core values of honor, courage, and commitment.

Suggested References and Resources: