Feb. 8, 2023
While business aviation struggles to meet workforce demands, many organizations may be missing out on valuable personnel who are about to separate from the military. Although some hiring managers do actively include veterans in their search for employees, they don’t always cast a wide enough net, looking only for individuals with aviation experience without considering other key attributes.
Adam Rocke, senior director of external engagements at Hiring Our Heroes, a U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation Program, said, “200,000 men and women who served will transition out of the military each year for the next five years. They should be the first pipeline of talent you look at when hiring at your organization.”
The unemployment rate for veterans is now only 2.7%, down 12% from a decade ago and lower than the general population, which is around 3.7%. This means competition for transitioning service members can be tight but the benefits of hiring from this group are worth it.
“Military members that have made the decision to move to the civilian employment sector bring to the table a diverse skill set built on a foundation of teamwork and mission focus,” said Andrew Karas, IS-BAO programme director at the International Business Aviation Council. “This mindset and diversity of skills provides a toolkit of depth an employer can harness when looking to fill a multi-role position.”
Karas served a number of roles in the U.S. Air Force including flight, safety and training duties.
Benefits of Hiring Veterans
Experience in the military can give veterans a highly valued skill set – discipline, leadership, people skills and the ability to adapt and creatively solve problems.
NBAA’s Senior Vice President of Safety, Security, Sustainability and International Operations Doug Carr served in the U.S. Navy and was not in an aviation program, although after completing six years in the Navy, he joined and later graduated from Southern Illinois University’s aviation program.
“The military teaches discipline, including mental, physical and emotional discipline. These skills translate to an employee who shows up on time, meets expectations and follows through with procedures as laid out,” said Carr.
While civilians might think of the military as a place to learn discipline, most service members also learn leadership skills very early on.
NBAA’s Director of Environmental and Technical Operations Stewart D’Leon served in the U.S. Air Force as an avionics technician.
“In the U.S. Air Force, you’re prepared to lead at an early phase in your career,” said D’Leon. “Small flight departments who need to rely on people to lead, regardless of the position they’re in, can experience huge benefits from hiring separated military personnel.”
Separating military personnel also tend to have good people skills. Starting on day one of boot camp, a service member is thrown in with people from different backgrounds who must work together to complete their duties. Successfully working together can literally make the difference between life and death.
“We have to learn to work together as a team with people from all different walks in life, which can be very advantageous in business aviation,” D’Leon said.
This transfers especially well to the cockpit but shouldn’t limit your search to aviators or aircraft maintenance technicians.
“Leadership and self-motivation are inherent skill sets that the military invests in. Although not all military personnel are good leaders, the training is there is some shape or form,” said Carr. “Ultimately, military personnel have ability to turn the technical into the consumable.”
These skills are useful in business aviation positions ranging from line service to scheduling and logistics to business management and executive leadership.
“Employers that hire veterans have a unique opportunity to hire someone who can learn new skills quickly,” said Rocke.
Connecting With Vets
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, founded in March 2011, is a nationwide effort to connect veterans, service members, military spouses and caregivers with meaningful employment opportunities.
Hiring Our Heroes brings employers and veterans together to explore available opportunities. The organization also helps veterans complete mock interviews and receive resume advice from potential employers. The group also organizes a number of workforce development initiatives.
More than 40 of America’s biggest employers comprise the Hiring Our Heroes Veteran Employment Advisory Council. The council represents major industries, providing mentors for transitioning service members and military spouses while establishing best practices for veteran employment.
The Corporate Fellowship Program focuses on service members nearing the end of their commitment. This 12-week program, usually within the last six months of service, is essentially an internship with a host company. The program had 2,500 participants in 2022 and 90% were offered a full-time job after their separation.
The Corporate Fellowship Program was so successful it spurred the creation of a similar program for active duty military spouses. Military spouses face unique challenging in their careers, including gaps in employment and nonlinear or lateral career paths due to frequent relocations and other demands of the military family lifestyle, resulting in an unemployment rate of 24%, Rocke said.
Hiring Our Heroes plans to host 47 hiring summits in 2023. Rocke said these summits are incredibly successful, rewarding and occasionally, surprising.
“Organic, unexpected matches happen at these hiring summits all the time,” said Rocke. “People with the right skills and employers that need those skills somehow find each other.’
But Rocke said aviation businesses should think more broadly than just those with aviation experience. How might a non-aviation specialist veteran’s skills and aptitudes fit in your organization?
Karas suggested prospective employers reach out to their local military base Transition Assistance Program representative or local Department of Veterans Affairs office for information about presenting their organization at recruitment events. Organizations considering internships, apprentice or employment training opportunities should also look into the Department of Defense SkillBridge program.
Don’t Rely on Luck
D’Leon got into business aviation by happenstance.
“I wasn’t really aware of this industry, which speaks to our industry’s first problem recruiting military,” he said. “Even aviation people might not be familiar with business aviation.”
Both D’Leon and Carr said the industry needs to be more proactive in its approach to recruiting, networking with veterans and about-to-separate military personnel to share the wide number of career fields within business aviation.
Be prepared to explain your company’s benefits, including medical coverage, retirement and time off. The types and structures of civilian benefits are generally unfamiliar to these newly separated military personnel.
Also consider your organization’s values.
“Veterans skills can translate into many roles in business aviation. It really requires a one-on-one conversation with the applicant. Do you fit culturally?” said Carr. “The next generation tends to be more focused on companies that match their core values.”
Karas echoed the importance of shared values. “Many veterans are looking for an organization that represents the same core values they followed during their military career. The core values of integrity, teamwork and the ability to excel in their field of work is a significant element of their search criteria,” Karas said. “An organization that showcases their workplace culture and core values during the recruitment process will be very attractive to service members looking for their next career chapter.”
As Rocke put it: “Just because veterans unemployment rates are low right now doesn’t mean we should take our foot off the gas.”