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Helping Veterans Return

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Helping Veterans Return

The Impact of War

Helping Veterans Return

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Servicemen and women who come home for good from Iraq and Afghanistan face many challenges. Among them, finding a job. And that's difficult for everyone in today's economic conditions, not just those returning from military service. Chad Sowash wants to improve veteran's chances. He's an Army reservist and infantry drill sergeant on active duty at Fort Benning, Georgia. When he's not training, Sowash is vice president of business development for the Direct Employers Association, a non-profit consortium funded by hundreds of Fortune 500 companies. He also writes a blog called "The Chad" on JobCentral.com and he joins us from member station WFYI in Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome, sergeant.

Sergeant CHAD SOWASH (Army Reservist, Infantry Drill Sergeant, Vice President, Business Development for the Direct Employers Association, Blogger, JobCentral.com): Good morning.

HANSEN: You are on leave, I know, for the holidays.

Sergeant SOWASH: Yes, I am.

HANSEN: You have to report back to Fort Benning in about a week. Tell us a little bit about what you do in the recruiting process for many of the Fortune 500 companies.

Sgt. SOWASH: Well, I work for Direct Employers Association, we are a non-profit recruiting leadership organization. And really what it is is we've got over 450 major Fortune 500 companies, mainly, who have pulled resources and dollars to focus on recruiting more effectively online. But I lead many of the major programs that we're putting in place, a lot of the technologies, drive a lot of the execution and whatnot, to focus on recruitment online, and driving the cost down and the efficiencies up.

HANSEN: Now, would it be accurate to say that in some ways you can act as a conduit between these returning veterans and some of these businesses?

Sgt. SOWASH: Oh, no question. No question. It's hard to point, because we're talking to companies, I mean, many companies. And obviously, we deal with the states, too, through a Vets Central, so we're talking about tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, you know, so it's kind of - it's hard to put a face to, you know, that type of a number. Although being a drill sergeant and being in the Army, you get a lot of faces to try to pin them on, so it makes a little bit easier.

HANSEN: What kind of jobs are the veterans finding?

Sgt. SOWASH: Well, one of the things that we focused on early on, with the National Labor Exchange, with Job Central and Vet Central, was not just to offer a one specific type of job and make it - maybe a mechanics jobsite or what have you. Because the military and the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guards, there are so many jobs. And they do everything from, you know, being a mechanic to infantry, to all the way to dealing with nuclear reactors and things of that nature. So we couldn't just offer a specific vein of jobs, it had to be from A to Z.

HANSEN: Do you have any statistics or any information that tracks the placement of veterans?

Sgt. SOWASH: No, not as of yet. We are very early with Vets Central, about 18 months or so, and we've been focused mainly on getting that outreach to the veterans, to make sure that they know that the opportunities are available to them. Now, one of my big pushes for 2009 is to start focusing on gathering those metrics and that research information.

HANSEN: And the research information and metrics and so forth, I mean, basically you're talking about, you know, giving veterans the tools they need to state what their qualifications are, what they did in the military and then mesh those with what the companies are looking for.

Sgt. SOWASH: Well, mainly the higher statistics being able to pull those, glean those from the member companies, so that we know exactly, you know, how many veterans we're getting jobs for. Although what you're talking about, Liane, no question. One of the things I think we can all do better is, on the military side as well as on the corporate side, is to be able to help, you know, these men and women from the military better understand what their skill sets are and how they translate on the civilian side, because they do.

HANSEN: And then what companies might be looking for those characteristics and those qualifications?

Sgt. SOWASH: That's exactly right. And again, we've got hundreds and hundreds of companies that are utilizing Job Central and Vets Central, who are actively seeking those types of individuals.

HANSEN: Do you think your own military service - does it help your civilian work recruiting returning vets for jobs?

Sgt. SOWASH: It does, although, knowing what they're going through, the stresses they've been under on their way back, you know, there's a huge transition that needs to happen. Being able to translate that to hiring managers and VPs of talent acquisition for major Fortune 500 companies, it definitely does give me an edge.

HANSEN: I know you're not a job counselor. I mean, it's not your title. But do you have advice? What advice would you give to veterans who have come home and are beginning to look for work in this economy?

Sgt. SOWASH: I'd give the same advice that I give to my friends that I work with down in - at Fort Benning. And that's you know, really understand what you're bringing to the table for, you know, those companies, those Fortune 500 companies, the mid-sized companies, or even a small Mom and Pop company. You know, the military provides many different schools as you go through, and you actually gain rank, which, you know you don't see a lot - you don't see that a lot on the civilian side. So take a lot of those assets that you've had given to you on the military side and actually translate that into something that the civilian side will understand.

HANSEN: Drill Sergeant Chad Sowash writes a blog and recruitment issues. It's called "The Chad" on JobCentral.com, a resource Web site for recruiters, job seekers and employment services. He joined us from member station WFYI in Indianapolis. Thank you so much.

Sgt. SOWASH: Thank you.

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