You may know Hiring Our Heroes for its hiring events, but events are only one part of a multi-faceted approach we take to link transitioning service members, Veterans, military spouses and caregivers with meaningful employment opportunities.
Yes, our mission began with hiring events. In fact, it was 100 hiring fairs held in communities throughout the United States in 2011 that led to the creation of Hiring Our Heroes. We followed up our launch with more hiring fairs in 2012, including one aboard the USS Intrepid in New York City and our first military spouse-focused hiring fair at Fort Hood.
Before our fifth anniversary, Hiring Our Heroes had hosted more than 1,000 hiring events at locations throughout the world. From those hiring events alone, more than 28,200 Veterans and spouses were hired by companies of all sizes.
Hiring was our main focus because that’s what military job seekers needed at that time. Veteran unemployment was at an all-time high, but as the unemployment rate dropped, Hiring Our Heroes and its strategy evolved to meet new emerging needs.
Growing Meaningful Careers
In addition to educating U.S. businesses about the value that Veterans bring to the workplace, we began putting Veterans in roles at corporations through our fellowship program. Launched in 2015 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, this program now averages 500 fellows per cohort and has grown to 17 locations nationwide.
Today, our fellowships are available to military spouses and caregivers and, in the case of the Salesforce Fellowship Program, Veterans too. We facilitate six-week fellowships as a way to get them a foot in the door at local military-ready employers. For those willing to upskill, we offer fellowships in the solar industry, as a Salesforce-certified professional, and hands-on training to become an automotive technician for Toyota or Lexus.
Professional Development on Demand
In the last five years, Hiring Our Heroes has expanded its education and professional development programming for both Veterans and military spouses.
Our in-person Career Summits – held at military installations – offer transitioning service members and their spouses the opportunity to have their resumes reviewed, receive tips on their LinkedIn profiles, network with hiring managers, and start preparing for their post-military careers. Attendees may be more than a year away from separating from the military, so Hiring Our Heroes provides resources to help them plan for a successful transition. In 2019, we held nearly 30 Career Summits. We look forward to hosting these specialized events again in the near future.
During the last 10 years, our Military Spouse Program has expanded to include AMPLIFY, an exclusive two-day event that leads a cohort of military spouses through intensive career preparation, professional development and networking. In 2020, we pivoted to offer virtual AMPLIFY workshops and are pleased to share that attendees found that experience to be equally as rewarding as the in-person events.
Virtual training was our main focus of 2020. We shifted many of our in person events to virtual events (serving over 15,000 attendees) and launched our Career Community as a way to distribute valuable information when travel wasn’t possible. This free digital resource continues to grow and is available on demand.
Another outcome from 2020 was the role of Career Connectors at Hiring Our Heroes. Career Connectors serve as the primary point of contact for individuals inquiring about HOH programs or events. Our connectors review registrant profiles, provide resources, and ensure job seekers are employment-ready and prepared for hiring events. They also refer eligible candidates to programs like the Corporate Fellowship Program. As liaisons, they provide high-touch, individualized guidance, ensuring Veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses are given the right support at the right time.
A Shared Sense of Purpose
Hiring Our Heroes’ efforts has been and will continue to be two-fold. Along with serving the military community, we are also a workforce development initiative focused on providing a pipeline of diverse talent to employers.
In 2018, we launched our first Military Spouse Economic Empowerment Zone (MSEEZ). MSEEZ fosters collaboration between key stakeholders to help identify best practices that will support and advance the mission of connecting military spouses with meaningful employment opportunities, ultimately strengthening the financial security of our 21st-century military families. Since our launch of the San Antonio MSEEZ, we’ve launched 18 more.
We are proud of what we’ve accomplished in our first 10 years as an organization. More importantly, we are more excited to see what the future holds for Hiring Our Heroes and the innovative ways we can serve our military community during the next decade.
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The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of the VA.
Elizabeth Garcia is the director of strategic communications for Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation