Model Program Transitioning Veterans into the Workforce

The Walt Disney Company has a long tradition of supporting the military, dating back to Walt as a teenager during World War I. Today, Disney continues that legacy with widespread philanthropic undertakings and its Heroes Work Here is gaining momentum across the country as a model program for transitioning veterans back into the civilian workforce. This success with diversity and inclusion is capturing the attention of well-known global companies as well as the White House.

“Our Heroes Work Here program not only helps us find and hire highly qualified veterans, it also supports veterans and their families as they transition out of the military,” Robert A. Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company said. Disney’s company-wide commitment to recruit, support, and encourage other companies to hire veterans transitioning back to the civilian workforce is creating a public awareness campaign inspiring other employers to do the same.

Disney has hired more than 6,000 veterans since the initiative launched in 2012. The success of the program is being modelled in cities across the country who have hired over 10,000 more. “Veterans are a huge asset to companies across the nation and giving employers the tools they need to hire and retain them is something we are very proud of,” said Paul Richardson, Chief Diversity Officer of The Walt Disney Company.

Inspiring Business Leaders into Action

The program is educating and inspiring business leaders to build up their own veteran and military family hiring programs. In four areas of the country, organizations and major corporations have joined forces with Disney to support veterans building meaningful careers in the private sector. Most recently, Disney joined forces in November 2015 in Chicago, Illinois, with the Easter Seals Dixon Center and USAA for the Veterans Institute Chicago Heroes Work Here initiative. The purpose was encouraging business leaders from Midwest-based companies of all sizes to build or expand their veteran and military family hiring programs.

The Chicago event was inspired from the success of a Disney Veterans Institute held in June 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Hosted by General Motors, the event attracted more than 380 attendees who were trained by experts from Disney’s Heroes Work Here initiative on best practices for helping veterans make a successful transition from the military to the civilian workforce.

“We’re happy to share what we’ve learned with other organizations, so that more of these modern-day heroes have the tools and opportunities to build meaningful careers in the private sector,” Iger said.

One of the participants of that event is profiled on a Disney website describing The Walt Disney Company as “being a lot like the military: Multinational, mission oriented, dedicated life of service and presenting a professional image. The biggest difference is everyone smiles more!”

As part of the Disney’s Heroes Work Here program, The Walt Disney Company held its inaugural Disney Veterans Institute back in November 2013. It continues as a complimentary seminar that features experts from Disney, government officials, veterans, and nonprofit veterans’ service organizations, who share experiences, best practices, and tips for creating a veteran hiring program. That initial event attracted more than 500 attendees, representing more than 350 companies, including Apple, JP Morgan Chase, Smokey Bones BBQ Restaurant, and local government agencies. First Lady Michelle Obama and Walt Disney’s CEO were the keynote speakers.

Continuing Walt’s Legacy

Going back to Walt Disney’s military history, just shy of his 17th birthday, Walt attempted to enlist in the military during World War I but was rejected due to his age. In an effort to do his part, he joined the Red Cross and was stationed in Europe during the war. Later, during World War II, Walt created and produced training films for the Armed Forces and ultimately became one of the original sponsors of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

In addition to providing career opportunities for veterans, the company continues its tradition providing philanthropic support to a variety of organizations to help provide programs and services in order to assist veterans and their families. Walt Disney’s initiatives have expanded into sharing its resources to reach out to the private sector through a model diversity and inclusion veterans program.