After leaving the military, joining the workforce is an important part of the transition to civilian life for veterans. Among national economic policy issues, the majority (95%) of veterans surveyed supported investments in skills and technical training, according to a 2019 report by ALG Research, on behalf of the National Skills Coalition.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a program, Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC), which helps veterans develop high-tech skills for in-demand jobs. However, the VA announced Nov. 5 that VET TEC has run out of funds and may not return until its funding is replenished in October 2021.
Companies that hire veterans, however, can provide tech training and pathways for career development. Leaders at Accenture and PepsiCo shared with HR Dive how their organizations are meeting the challenge and creating inclusive environments for veterans in the professional services and food and beverage industries.
A smooth transition
In 2015, Accenture set a goal to hire 5,000 veterans by the end of 2020, Kate Hogan, chief operating officer, North America at Accenture, told HR Dive in an email. The company, which has ranked on Military Times' best employers for vets list for eight consecutive years, met its goal ahead of time, Hogan said. Through several partnerships, the company provided veterans with upskilling opportunities. For example, in 2016, Accenture began supporting NS2 Serves, a nonprofit founded by SAP National Security Services Inc., to train veterans for high-tech careers at no charge. This move helped Accenture expand its hiring of veterans, according to the company.
It also launched its veteran integration program in 2019 to assist in personalized onboarding. Meanwhile, its national apprenticeship program "has trained more than 800 apprentices nationally since it was launched as a pilot program in 2016, and quarter of those apprentices are veterans," Hogan said. Many participants move into full-time roles within the company, she said. It's a priority for Accenture to offer veterans successful career paths and benefits for "a smooth transition from military to civilian careers," she said.
PepsiCo, which calls itself "one of the largest employers of veterans in the U.S," seeks out former service members for their leadership skills, Tina Bigalke, the company's chief diversity and engagement officer, told HR Dive in an email. PepsiCo hired more than 1,200 U.S. military veterans in 2019, and more than 4,560 U.S. employees are veterans, according to Bigalke. To better enable a transition, PepsiCo creates "crosswalks between our job descriptions and those used in similar, technical, military roles," she said.
The food and beverage giant offers learning and development opportunities for veterans and all associates, including customized onboarding and upskilling to develop technical skills for in-role development, according to PepsiCo. Digitized and mobile content are available for self-development; a self-service chat bot is also available to answer questions.
PepsiCo said it prioritizes maintaining relationships with military placement and recruiting organizations such as RecruitMilitary and the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program, as well as partnering with military and veteran-focused community-based organizations. In addition, the company attends a variety of veteran-only career fairs across the U.S., which includes many military base events, third-party career summits and alumni career conferences, Bigalke said.
PepsiCo associates have also mentored more than 400 transitioning service members, veterans and spouses through its partnership with American Corporate Partners (ACP), Bigalke said. The company is a founding member of ACP, a nonprofit focused on easing the transition from military service to civilian life.
A more inclusive organization
Military veterans shouldn't be an afterthought when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, according to recent study. "Broadening the diversity lens, managers should assess whether or not veterans are included in their equity, diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives," researchers said in a study published in July.
The sharing and acceptance of different lived experiences is part of PepsiCo culture, Bigalke said. "Veterans have a valuable perspective that can only aid in building a more inclusive organization," she said. Veterans are also "innovation multipliers" who bring diverse skills and experiences and create "better solutions for our clients," according to Hogan.
They also helm diversity and inclusion efforts. Hogan offered the example of a Denver-based Accenture management consultant senior analyst, Ryan Fadden; he learned in the military the ability to work with diverse groups under various circumstances and was expected to train and engage with people who came from different backgrounds, Hogan said. "Ryan was deployed in Afghanistan, where he had to interact with villagers to help them become familiar with the soldiers and why the U.S. military presence was there. It was part of the broader mission strategy of winning the hearts and minds of the local population," she said. "As a talent-led business, we know the skills that military men and women bring — leadership, discipline and teamwork — are an excellent fit for the work we do with our clients," Hogan said.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) also can support inclusion and are notably becoming more recognized as benefiting business strategy. Accenture's military ERG has more than 2,100 members across 31 offices in the U.S., Hogan said. In addition to the military ERG, Accenture offers a military spouse ERG. "This ERG is dedicated to helping spouses and partners get through the times that are the hardest on a military family — like lengthy deployments and frequent relocations," Hogan said.
PepsiCo's veteran-led ERG, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The ERG "has led the way in supporting veterans, the military and their families as they transition from the military to the civilian workforce," Bigalke said.
In 2021, Hogan said Accenture will keep a focus on "developing programs and policies to ensure all veterans, service members, and military spouses can develop their career and work on innovative projects anywhere, even when they are mobilized for duty." Although 2020 has been challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic, PepsiCo recruiting teams, its ERG and brands "continue to build upon existing partnerships and explore new opportunities that can positively impact veterans, their families and communities," Bigalke said.