By Eric Eversole, Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Executive Director, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

In March 2011, we launched Hiring Our Heroes because we recognized a fundamental problem affecting our military community and an opportunity to help.

Indeed, in 2011—a decade after the devastating September 11 attacks—the men and women who had volunteered to serve during this time of distinct danger and uncertainty were facing an unemployment rate of 12 percent. For veterans under the age of 25, the rate more than doubled to 30 percent, and one in four military spouses was without work. Still, businesses across America were reporting a skilled workers shortage in fields ranging from manufacturing to engineering to energy. There seemed to be a systemic problem in connecting these two groups—top military talent and growing businesses—due to both limited resources and limited networks.

Given our unique position as a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation at the crossroads of private and public interests, we saw an opportunity to unite the two. Hiring Our Heroes was truly formed with collaboration in mind, and the relationships we continue to build at the national and local levels are the true strength of our program. Over the last three years, our job fair model and suite of free digital tools developed with our public, private, and nonprofit partners have helped more than 250,000 veterans and military spouses find work.

Some examples of the progress spurred by collaboration include:

  1. Hiring 500,000 Heroes
    In March 2012, through a partnership with Capital One, we launched a national campaign called Hiring 500,000 Heroes to encourage businesses to commit to hiring half a million veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses. Thus far, we have secured 361,000 commitments toward our goal and have confirmed 247,000 hires.
  2. Guide to Hiring Veterans
    This comprehensive tool is a joint effort of Hiring Our Heroes, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Labor to provide employers with the resources they need to recruit and retain veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses. The guide includes numerous resources and business incentives in one free and accessible place to help employers of every size and industry establish stronger veteran hiring campaigns.
  3. Goodwill Career Services
    At the start of 2014, we announced the launch of a partnership with Goodwill Industries who will now offer free vocational services to veterans and military spouses who participate in Hiring Our Heroes job fairs and programs. In addition to offering individual training opportunities, Goodwill will also lead several employment workshops and provide in-kind event space for fairs and networking events across the country.

The positive trends in veteran and military spouse employment since these collective efforts began are evident and encouraging. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment continues to decline in virtually every segment of the veteran population. Still, the task is far from complete. In the coming years of the drawdown from Afghanistan and leaner defense budgets, America will see an unprecedented 280,000 to 300,000 service members transition out of the military every year for the next four years—a 30 percent increase above the average rate. This estimate does not include the hundreds of thousands of military spouses who also will need jobs in an America where dual-income households are now the norm.

Every step of our journey, Hiring Our Heroes has worked hand-in-hand with valued, proactive partners, because for us, it is all about building the right team. Only together can we drive momentum on this important issue and connect talented veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses to the meaningful employment opportunities they deserve.

Eric Eversole

Eric Eversole has shown a strong commitment to the military and the men and women who serve. He first entered military service in 1994 as an enlisted security specialist in the Indiana Air National Guard. Eversole accepted a commission in the United States Navy JAG Corps in 1998. Currently, he is executive officer of one of the largest units in the Reserve JAG Corps and holds the rank of commander. He is a recognized expert in military justice.