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Fellowship Program Hopes To Help Veterans Find Jobs In Wisconsin

Teran Powell
Chuck Hodges explains to Wisconsin business representatives the purpose of Hiring Our Heroes.

A fellowship program designed to match veterans with prospective employment opportunities could soon take root in Wisconsin. It’s called the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program.

A collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation held an information session about the program at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center on Monday.

Hiring Our Heroes, a nationwide initiative that helps veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities, started back in 2011. However, its Corporate Fellowship Program began in the last few years as a 12-week training program for service members and military spouses to prepare them for their transition back into the civilian sector, explains Chuck Hodges.

He's the senior director of events and programs with Hiring Our Heroes program and gave the formal presentation about the program before a crowd of Wisconsin business representatives on Monday.

“We recruit the individuals that are within their last 180 days of active duty," he outlined. "Once we recruit them, build their resumes up, then we partner them with the companies that are participating. Companies interview all the service members, and the service members then interview the companies. After that’s done, then we play Match.com. They rank order each other and we match them up with those right companies, and then for 12 weeks they work for those companies Monday through Thursday."

The 12-week period gives the recruit and the company a chance to see if the job is a good fit, and if that position is open after the training, the recruit would be hired.

Hodges said he believes bringing this fellowship program to Wisconsin is important for two reasons: “One, for the great service members who are transitioning out, for them to have the opportunities to serve in companies across this country. How do we expand the knowledge and educate service members about the opportunities that exist here in Wisconsin on the one side? And then secondly, give those great Wisconsin employers the opportunity to bring in the amazing talent that the service members provide.”

The program is held three times a year at 15 military installations and cities across the country.

Christopher Hagerup, deputy secretary of the state department of Workforce Development, explained the push behind bringing the fellowship to Wisconsin: “We have basically a job shortage in the state right now where unemployment rate’s at 2.8 percent. We have the most people ever employed in the state, but we have a lot of employers who need good people to come work for them. We think the vets population is probably the best kind of employee you can have these are folks that show up for work, they’re honest, they have great leadership capabilities and they end up being great employees.”

Hagerup mentioned that Wisconsin doesn’t have a huge military presence, but this program could help bring more vets into the state for work.

Jan Zizzo was one of the dozens of Wisconsin business representatives in attendence Monday. She’s with the Oshkosh Corporation. “We’ve been dying for them [U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation] to come to the state of Wisconsin to start their fellowship program," she said.

Zizzo said bringing the fellowship to the state not only welcomes a great caliber of veteran workers, but it’s also important because of the difficulty some veterans face coming out of the service. “They often feel that when they leave the military, they don’t have the comradery of a family anymore and they’re in a corporate world and they feel a little bit, sometimes, lost,” she added.

Details are still in the works regarding how the fellowship program will work in Wisconsin, but for now, companies have the chance to decide if they want to be involved.

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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