“My name is Geoffrey Newson, and I served two tours in Iraq and with Special Forces; we were the first ground troops in Afghanistan. But one of the toughest things I faced was finding a job when I got out of the Marine Corps.”
Newson could be speaking for hundreds of thousands of Americans who returned from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan only to find themselves engaged in a different kind of struggle.
In 2011, when more than 13 percent of returning veterans were unemployed, Spike decided to do something about it. It launched its Hire a Veteran campaign to help these men and women find jobs, to encourage businesses to step up their hiring practices and to salute companies that actively recruit former members of the armed forces.
Spike knows that vets are some of America’s best-trained, most dedicated leaders and teammates. Hiring them isn’t just good for the country; it’s good for business.
All that is certainly true of Army Captain Jerry Pegram. “During Operation Iraqi Freedom, I spent over 14 months analyzing military data and managing resources for the First Cavalry Division,” he said. “Now I’m home, where I analyze trends and data for my new employer, PepsiCo.”
“I’ve actually received Rookie of the Year for my sales team,” he added. “My training and experience from the military helped me get to that point. Soldiers innovate, think on the fly and accomplish the mission.”
The Hire a Veteran campaign uses a variety of tactics. Its Honor Roll draws attention to 18 of the most veteran-friendly companies and organizations. The list includes GE, which employs 10,000 vets and has committed to hiring 5,000 more; Lowe’s, which employs 14,000 vets; and Team Rubicon, which rapidly deploys veterans to assist in disaster response and relief.
Its website, at hireavet.spike.com, is a deep source of information for veterans and employers. It connects vets to hiring agencies, skills training programs, job boards and service organizations, and it directs companies to groups that can help them recruit veterans.
The campaign also runs PSAs on Spike. Some feature celebrities urging companies to hire veterans. Others tell the stories of vets like Geoffrey Newson and Andre Allen, who have found rewarding jobs stateside with the help of veterans groups.
“We jumped out of airplanes and helicopters, rappelling down to rescue people,” explained Allen, an Air Force veteran who was one of 20 veterans hired by the St. Bernard Project to help rebuild homes in New Orleans. “Now, after Katrina, I feel like it’s my responsibility to get people back into their houses, get back on their feet. It’s a great job. I love it.”
Hire a Veteran also helps find financial support for organizations that help vets find work. It matched Helmets to Hardhats, one of its initial nonprofit partners, with the Robin Hood Foundation after it lost all of its Department of Defense funding. The initiative’s profile of Team Rubicon resulted in a $75,000 donation from Viacom.
In 2012, Hire a Veteran partnered with the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and numerous service organizations during Fleet Week to set up a Job Prep Fair to help vets rework their résumés and improve their interview skills. For Veterans Day, Spike worked with Monster to develop camouflage stereo headphones for sale at Best Buy, which is also a member of the Honor Roll, with proceeds benefiting three nonprofits that assist veterans.
In 2013, Hire a Veteran is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce/Hiring Our Heroes to identify America’s top veteran-friendly small businesses. It’s also serving as a media and strategic development partner with Toyota on the development of the automaker’s Personal Branding Resume Engine, which helps translate military experience into résumés that attract attention.
With more troops returning from Afghanistan, and with the economy picking up only slowly, Hire a Veteran continues to face staunch challenges. The unemployment rate of Iraq and Afghanistan vets has dropped to 9.9 percent, but it’s still higher than the national average. And the rates for veterans ages 18 to 24 is depressingly high — almost 20 percent. So is the 12.5 percent rate for women who served, which translates to 37,000 unemployed female veterans.
But the tide is beginning to turn, thanks in part to the growing number of Hire a Veteran partners.
“Every role that we have is a potential role for a veteran,” said Jerald Novak of another Honor Roll member, PepsiCo. “Not just in the name of service, but because they help us win as a business.”
“[Spike is] doing something great for our nation’s true heroes. [Spike’s] not asking for anything in return. This is not something we’re trying to monetize…We’re doing this and saying, ‘You know what, let’s bring exposure, let’s bring to light companies that have gone out there and have dedicated their time, money, resources and all that good stuff to making sure our veterans have jobs, a paycheck. Something that allows them to be able to provide for their families the way that everyone wants to be able to provide for their loved ones.'”
Lamar Jones Jr., Vice President, Spike, and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran