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CNBC

The biggest names in tech in the US hire with an eye on veterans

Medal of Honour recipient's program with LinkedIn will help 100,000 veterans this year

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 May, 2016, 3:43am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 May, 2016, 2:54pm

The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty since September 2001 hovers at around 5.8 per cent, which is higher than the national average of 5 per cent. And even when employed, about half of veterans leave their first jobs after the military within a year of transitioning home and 65 per cent within two years, according to a survey on job retention among veterans.

These statistics are encouraging veterans and advocates to focus on a smoother transition from military to civilian life. Medal of Honour recipient and retired Army Captain Florent Groberg has partnered with LinkedIn to encourage more hiring managers to pay attention to the skills that veterans have to offer.

"Our veterans program is about how many vets we can empower to find employment," Groberg said.

Currently, the technology sector is a big part of this mission, both in the networking platform and ultimate work placement.

Groberg says the program will assist around 100,000 veterans this year with free premium subscriptions to LinkedIn.

"What I learned after many failures is that networking is the solution."

Promoting veteran candidates within the technology industry specifically was the focus of a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, which included representatives from Microsoft , Amazon and Uber testifying about their respective companies' opportunities for veterans.

Ohio Congressman Brad Wenstrup, Republican and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said that he was highlighting the tech industry specifically because the "flexibility these jobs offer, as well as the skills needed to be successful in these careers, make veterans an obvious fit for these positions and trades."

Bernard Bergan, technical account manager at Microsoft and a veteran himself, told the committee that "it is past time for industry, government and nonprofit leaders to give back to our veterans."

Microsoft's goal is to train and find IT careers for 5,000 service members over the next five years, Bergan said.

Amazon pledged to hire 25,000 veterans in the next five years, and Uber said the company had already fulfilled its goal of employing 50,000 veterans.

The need for veteran candidates extends far beyond the tech sector, though, and that is something that America's largest nonprofit health-care system, Ascension, acknowledged as well.

Ascension CEO Anthony Tersigni says the company currently has 2,000 employees who are veterans. "Right now in many parts of the country the veterans are most vulnerable," Tersigni said. "We understand that veterans have different needs than some of our other patients, and we want to have a better understanding of them and so we want to engage those veteran organizations and the veterans themselves."

Groberg said that regardless of the industry or sector, finding better employment opportunities for veterans and retaining them in these jobs will only occur by helping veterans build a professional identity, a professional network and professional skills in a civilian career.

Florent Groberg has already met with companies, including IBM, Google, HP and JPMorgan Chase, to help them better understand how to best serve veterans in their time of transition.

"I go in there, and I talk to them about what we can bring to corporate America as service members, because the skills that allowed us to be successful in the military are transferable to corporate America," Groberg said.

The survey on job retention among veterans, conducted by Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families and VetAdvisor, found that respondents employed in their preferred career field reported longer average job tenure.

"I think we can be successful in any sector if given the right opportunities and the right mentors."