Hiring VeteransAs manufacturing companies continue to struggle with finding skilled employees, hiring military veterans could be the solution they’ve been searching for all along.

Veterans typically possess the hard skills, soft skills and attitudinal characteristics an employer desires in a new hire. Furthermore, there are numerous programs in place that make hiring veterans easier and more cost-effective.

Cory Argenbright and Stephan Porter are veterans themselves. They are also the founders of Saint Maximum Consulting (SMC), which specializes in helping veterans transition to post-military employment. Argenbright is a U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Porter is a retired lieutenant colonel with 32 years of service with the U.S. Army. They shared some insights on why manufacturing companies should consider hiring military veterans — and how to go about recruiting, training and retaining — during a presentation, entitled Veteran Hiring: A Snapshot, at AEM’s recently held Workforce Solutions Summit.

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“When you’re talking to a veteran during a job interview, ask them what their values are. When you hear their answer, you’ll likely conclude that they are a much better culture fit than you’d originally thought.” -- Cory Argenbright, co-founder of Saint Maximum Consulting

 6 Traits That Make Veterans a Great Hire

Entrepreneurial – Veterans are entrepreneurial in nature. That doesn’t necessarily mean they want to start their own business. It means that veterans take ownership of their assignments and responsibilities, and strive to do a standout job for whomever they are working for at a given time.

Assume high levels of trust – Veterans are highly trustworthy. These are people who have security clearances, after all.

Adept at skill transfer – A veteran often trained in one area but was moved to another. They had to quickly embrace change, train, learn and adapt. At the same time, they learned how to leverage their existing training, skills and knowledge in new roles.

Comfortable in discontinuous environments – A military member could be sitting in an office one day, and the next day they could be deployed to a disaster area or war zone. Military veterans are highly flexible to changing business needs.

Advanced technical training – The military is always on the leading edge of technology. Thus, military members have often seen things nobody else has. Thus, military veterans have been conditioned to be very technology-minded, always thinking about how innovation could advance their mission.

Strong organizational commitment – Nobody is more loyal than a member of the military. Veterans have come to embrace the same values that are revered by manufacturing companies:

  • Loyalty
  • Duty
  • Respect
  • Selflessness
  • Integrity
  • Honor
  • Courage
  • Commitment
  • Excellence

“The military instills these values into its troops every single day,” Argenbright said. “Military veterans have been trained to live the values of their service whether in or out of uniform. So, when you’re talking to a veteran during a job interview, ask them what their values are. When you hear their answer, you’ll likely conclude that they are a much better culture fit than you’d originally thought.”

It Pays to Hire Veterans… Literally

Aside from the personality traits that make them ideal candidates for manufacturing jobs, there are other incentives for hiring veterans.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) – It incentivizes employers to hire “underutilized” workers, including veterans. A company can receive a tax credit of $2,400 to $9,600 for a veteran’s first year of employment.

Like most tools built into the tax code, it takes some knowledge to properly navigate WOTC. Veteran Tax Credits (VTC) is an organization that helps veterans get approved for WOTC. VTC also assists employers in understanding how to utilize the WOTC program.

Apprenticeship programs – An employer has the ability to bring on a veteran as an apprentice, paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), if approved by the GI Bill. The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers veterans their entry-level wage and a monthly housing allowance.

DOD Skill Bridge Program – An employer can have veterans train and work on a temporary basis for up to six months, and it doesn’t cost a dime because the Department of Defense foots the entire bill. The bonus is that there’s a high probability that a veteran will be retained as a permanent employee.

“Manufacturers should have a willingness to open up a position under this program,” Porter said. “Then there needs to be a plan for someone to manage the veteran. As long as a manufacturer is willing to do it and can find a candidate, it is a pretty simple process to get it all started. Once comfortable, a manufacturer can open up as many positions as it wants. We have seen a 90-95% hiring rate from this program.”

VA Special Employer Incentive Programs – These types of programs are set up to reimburse portions of veteran salaries. Specifics can vary by program and region, but are definitely worth looking into, according to Argenbright.

Manufacturing Institute Heroes MAKE America – This is a program designed to help train veterans specifically for jobs in manufacturing. A manufacturer can develop its own apprenticeship program or utilize one that already exists.


“Manufacturers should have a willingness to open up a position under (the DOD Skill Bridge Program). Once comfortable, a manufacturer can open up as many positions as it wants. We have seen a 90-95% hiring rate from this program.” -- Stephan Porter, co-founder of Saint Maximum Consulting

Retaining Veterans in Your Workforce

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why it makes sense for a manufacturing company to hire veterans. The next phase is creating a rewarding post-military work environment that encourages them to stick around.

There are some statistics that may startle an employer. Roughly 50% of veterans leave their first post-military job within a year, and 60-80% end up leaving before their second anniversary. The good news is that, in many instances, preventing this kind of mass exodus is well within an employer’s control.

The first step is recognizing why veterans leave their first post-military job:

Found a better job – Manufacturers must be careful to avoid hiring a veteran just because they are a veteran. The veteran needs to be a good match for the position just like any other new hire.

Lack of career advancement – In the military, people are used to moving up every three or four years if they meet a certain standard. Veterans want to see that same kind of opportunity for advancement from their new employer.

Quality of work – Veterans want to feel like they have a sense of purpose in what they do. Thus, they need to understand the company’s mission. Veterans also value a strong company culture where everyone works together to fulfill the overall mission.

Satisfaction with management and leadership – Veterans are used to autonomy. They have been given guardrails and told to get the job done. Micro-management can be common in the private sector, but many veterans do not adapt well to that. At the same time, veterans can become strong leaders within their personal teams. It’s important for management to recognize this fact.

Inadequate compensation – Veterans often end up taking jobs that pay much less than they were making in the military. They also lose some excellent benefits. Manufacturing companies should keep that in mind when making job offers to military veterans.

Position doesn’t match skills or education – Many veterans end up under-employed. Employers should make sure they understand all of the skills, education and other qualities a veteran brings to the table before offering them a certain position. If it’s not a good match, the result could be short-term employment.

“In the veteran culture, structure is key,” Argenbright said. “There is a standard operating procedure for every single thing we do in the military. The military has engrained ‘structure’ into veterans. So, when veterans come out of the military, they crave this kind of structure.”

This kind of disciplined mindset aligns perfectly with a manufacturing company. Manufacturers have quality standards that have to be met. Thus, certain standards of operation must be put in place.

“When you hire a veteran, you are hiring a person who values these types of standards,” Argenbright said.

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