By Kathy Garner
Like TEL, many SEMI member companies have a long history of hiring veterans. We all have done a good job of hiring military personnel who possess the obvious semiconductor industry-related job skills and experience (e.g., avionics, hydraulics, mechanics, and radio frequency (RF)). But as an industry, are we doing enough? Are we missing out on the next employee of the year because we aren’t thinking broadly enough about our workforce?
Five years ago, I met a young soldier at a military job fair. The interaction with him was a defining moment for me personally and it inspired me to commit to do more to translate military experience to the civilian workforce.
Soldier: “What does TEL do?”
Me: (Industry has a bright future, chips are in essentially everything including your military gear, etc.)
Soldier: With disappointment, “Well, I don’t suppose I’m qualified to work at your company – since its technology.”
Me: “Please stay for another moment, tell me your MOS (Military Occupation Specialty code) and job duties.”
Soldier: “Ma’am, I’m a bomb specialist. I disable bombs.”
Me: “Okay, let’s see if I get this right. You work with electrical schematics. It’s a given you follow instructions and guidelines, consider safety a p-r-e-t-t-y big deal, work under pressure, and you work with a team. Right?”
Soldier: With excitement, “Yes, ma’am. And we have a squadron motto: “We have NO bad days!”
Me: “Well then, you have the PERFECT background!”
This conversation changed this soldier’s outlook on his career possibilities after exiting the military. He never imagined that the specialized training and experience he received as a bomb specialist would lead him to a role in the high-tech industry. He honestly believed he possessed no value to a civilian employer. It was moving to experience this gap of understanding face-to-face. Yet, this is a typical conversation between recruiters and hiring managers and military members. I could have easily let him walk away. Instead, I chose to invest 10 more minutes to learn more about what this soldier had to offer TEL.
What is the key challenge around hiring military veterans?
Disconnect. 90% of veterans surveyed faced challenges seeking civilian employment. According to Pew Research Center, only 1% of the entire U.S. population is qualified to join the U.S. military, and .5% (yes, that’s ½ of 1%) serve. This means 99.5% of the U.S. population has no direct working experience with the military. Civilian employers (recruiters, hiring managers, or employees) do not understand what the military does, the technical nature and responsibility of each role, or the extensive training each military member receives. And, veterans do not understand the civilian workspace. We truly have a gap translating military experiences and skills to the civilian workforce and vice versa.
What are the benefits hiring military veterans?
There are numerous benefits to hiring military veterans.
- Veterans are well-versed in cutting-edge technology. Today’s military is high-tech, state-of-the-art, and computer-based.
- Veterans are uniquely matched to our industry. Their jobs are highly technical and soldiers are extremely safety-conscious; they appreciate guidelines, follow directions, and possess a strong sense of team.
- Veterans are global citizens. Many military veterans have lived and worked in more than one country and speak more than one language. They tend to be culturally astute.
- Veterans have a winner’s psychology. Military members receive hundreds of hours of professional and technical training. They focus on a higher purpose and win as a team.
- Veterans practice accountability and leadership. Personal accountability is highly promoted. There is no room for excuses or acceptable reasons for mission failure. Everyone has the opportunity for a leadership role at some level and has modeling of what good leadership looks like.
- Hiring veterans aid diversity program issues over time. The military is a diverse group with 16% females and 44% people of color. Military personnel come from a wide variety of experiences – from across all 50 U.S. states with a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds.
How can SEMI member companies truly effect change?
Considering over 200,000 men and women exit the military annually, we have a significant opportunity to effect change by offering careers to those who serve while expanding our industry’s talent pool. Here are some initial ideas to get your company moving towards a more robust military outreach:
- Participate in the SEMI Foundation’s VetWorks Program: The Foundation is creating a toolkit to help member companies engage, hire, train, and retain veterans. This includes support for veteran-friendly messaging and recruiting, internships, training programs, and job fairs. This work will launch in Q2 of 2021 – contact Margaret Kindling at SEMI for details (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Have a smart plan – Determine what positions make sense to focus on for veteran hiring. Start simple and grow your efforts over time. Set metrics for what percentage of your hires will be veterans. Recruiters can use simple key word searches to pull veteran resumes. Your company can attend military job fairs (in person or virtual) either at military installations or hiring events by organizations like Hiring Our Heroes, RecruitMilitary, etc.
- Offer diversity training related to hiring military veterans that focus on military vs. corporate cultures. Additionally, Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Foundation offers a Veterans at Work Certification Program available for all interested participants.
- Soldier For Life – This is an official U.S. Army program created to help connect current soldiers, retired soldiers, veterans, and their families with education, employment, and health and wellness resources and opportunities.
- If you are near a military installation, get to know the transition assistance program (TAP) officer or the base commander. You have to be persistent – the relationship will be worth it.
- Ask your network, including SEMI member companies, if they would share their military installation contacts. This is not a closed talent competition amongst our industry partners. Many companies who have a robust military outreach program are eager to share their stories to help you get started. It is simply the right thing to do to help each other make a difference for those who served.
- Internships/Mentorships/Fellowships. Ask your local military installation if they offer direct mentorships or internships. A great way to get started with internships is partnering with NAM’S Manufacturing Institute – Heroes MAKE America. Hiring Our Heroes is another great resource for fellowships.
Let’s do more for those who served. Interested in starting an industry veteran network to share best practices? Please contact Kathy.email@example.com. We can do this!