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 Veterans & Diversity Go Hand in Hand

Diverse careers for veterans who can take charge of their post-military destiny exist in every industry, and employers value the diversity they bring to the workplace, as well as their coveted, proven skill sets.
When seeking an employer that embodies diversity and inclusion (D&I), look no further than the U.S. military. From ethnic makeup to age, languages, religions, and cultural backgrounds, the five branches are some of the most diverse bodies in the world.
For example, U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) data reveals that members of minority groups and diverse cultures account for approximately 40% of all service personnel, with African Americans composing the largest demographic at 17%.
Naturally this diversity spills over into the veteran population. Based on data compiled by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, the number of veterans is expected to fall to below 13 million by 2040, but the percentage of members of minority groups and diverse cultures is forecasted to climb 10 points. Once again, African Americans will lead with an estimated 2 million veterans, followed by Hispanics at more than 1.5 million.
While most employers accept that veterans possess a valuable skill set, their acclimation to such multifaceted diversity is a bonus retiring military personnel bring to the corporate, private sector as civilian professionals. Meet several such professionals here and learn how you can join their successful ranks.
Hunt Cooks Up Career Possibilities at Hormel Foods
As an enlisted member of the U.S. Navy from 1999 to 2013, Rashad Hunt always knew his fellow military men and women relied on his commitment to details as he worked on the controls, landing gear and pneumatics of F/A-18 Hornet supersonic jets. He valued the chance to contribute to keeping the aircraft flying safely and enjoyed the technological tasks. In fact, Hunt enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to advance his knowledge base in preparation for his post-service professional life.
“With this degree I considered working for an aeronautics company. That changed after I went to a military hiring conference and was introduced to Hormel Foods,” recalls the certified maintenance and reliability professional (CMRP). 
Some might question Hunt’s career choice. How could a job in food manufacturing reach the same heights as advancing the country’s aeronautical aspirations? For Hunt, though, the company’s culture surpassed all other criteria in his decision-making process.
“I love interacting with the great people of Hormel Foods,” he says. “Hormel Foods gave me a sense of home and being welcomed. From the first interview to the first day on the job and every day since, I’ve always felt welcomed.”
Still based in Austin, MN, where George A. Hormel set up shop more than 125 years ago, Hormel Foods has been built on creating traditions. From the public perspective, its brands have become American classics, such as Spam and Dinty Moore. More recently acquired labels, such as Fontanini, Herdez and House of Tsang, established a new tradition of catering to a more international palate and flavor profile. 
Some of the company’s most endearing traditions, however, center around its workforce. For example, out of respect for military duty, Mr. Hormel established a guaranteed job and benefits policy for employees who deployed to the Spanish-American War - which was fought at the very end of the 19th century in 1898 - as members of the Minnesota National Guard long before such practices were mandated.
Another tradition guaranteed employees annual wages, a joint-earning plan and an employee profit-sharing trust. These terms may be commonly associated with modern benefits packages, but in 1938, in the midst of the Great Depression, they were unheard of, and management created the policies anyway. Hunt insists that level of commitment to staff remains evident at Hormel Foods today.
“It’s been a pleasure to work for the company, and I truly believe I have the support to be successful professionally and personally,” he says. “I’m also in a place where I’m challenged and feel like my efforts are helping the organization.”
As a corporate reliability engineer, Hunt has adapted his experience with assessing and addressing intricate aircraft technology to overseeing and improving systems involved with large-scale food production. In addition to coordinating all facilities on reliability improvement initiatives, he trains people on the computerized maintenance management system, as well as on root-cause analysis investigations.
“Also, I help our teams by assisting with equipment management, including preventive maintenance strategies, and predictive maintenance technologies,” the corporate reliability engineer adds.
When Hunt grounded his original career plans in exchange for a non-traditional path for veterans, he proved skills obtained via the armed services cross boundaries. As such, he advises employers to be explicit in communicating needs and expectations so veterans can formulate their own strategies for success for themselves and their companies.
Look up career opportunities with Hormel Foods Corporation at hormelfoods.com/careers. Follow company achievements on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
Pratcher & DXC Technology Lend Support
In the military every assignment fulfills a pertinent function to a unit, command and mission. From 1986 to 1992, U.S. Navy Submarine Navigation Systems Specialist Jamie Pratcher was charged with the responsibility of maintaining the vessel’s navigational computer systems. On the surface, systems maintenance may sound like a perfunctory role, but in that specific environment, it’s critical to insuring the sub’s operation and crew’s safety.
The six years of his service coincided with an exciting period for computer professionals. Information technology (IT) was a burgeoning specialty, and even though his previous knowledge was restricted to the submarine computer specifics, Pratcher recognized these skills could help him secure a corporate IT role after departing from the Navy.
Indeed, his first private-sector position was with a tech company that broke ground for the online banking industry. Next he joined computer giant Hewlett Packard, which included a stint with its Hewlett Packard Enterprise division. In 2017 this entity merged with CSC and was branded DXC Technology. Headquartered in Tysons, VA, the recently formed corporation provides end-to-end IT services to clients around the world and across industries, including banking and capital markets.
“I lead the Unix/Linux systems team in support of our customers’ computing environments. This includes server administration, scripting, data security, performance management and more. I also work with the account support team to design and implement solutions that meet our clients’ computing needs,” says the information technology (IT) outsourcing services delivery consultant IV.
Over his career, Pratcher has watched IT advances redefine communication, commerce, financial services, and so many other business and personal behaviors. Staying current with developments and advances is more than mandatory. It’s often a challenging task. In fact, carving out time to keep up with professional journals, attend conferences and seminars, and seek educational opportunities can be as challenging as troubleshooting technology solutions. Pratcher appreciates the encouragement he receives from management to pursue professional development.
“DXC provides a very flexible and supportive workplace where employees are highly encouraged to continue to learn and grow their skill sets across a variety of projects,” he comments.
His career has also taught Pratcher how colleagues can be invaluable resources.
“One of the things I liked the most about serving in the military was working with different kinds of people, many of them from diverse cultures or backgrounds,” he says. “It allowed me to see things from a different perspective, and it truly did enrich me professionally and personally.”
Pratcher hopes employers also view veterans and separating military personnel as assets who bring diverse cultures, backgrounds and ideas to the corporate world.
“I’ve noticed a misconception that military personnel are rigid and process-oriented,” he explains.
“This probably originates from the fact that the military is very disciplined. That offers many plusses, but military personnel are very adaptable and creative, too. They have to be in order to adjust to and function well in so many different situations and environments during their time in the military.”
His advice to separating servicemen and -women is to remember your training.
“Recognize that the fundamental skills you developed in the military, such as initiative, performing under pressure, leadership, dependability and teamwork, are highly coveted in the civilian world,” Pratcher notes
Look up career opportunities with DXC Technology at jobs.dxc.technology. Follow company achievements on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Glassdoor.
Williams & Stewart Care for Atrium Health
Melissa V. Williams, NP credits her civilian career success to her U.S. Army training. “I gained valuable experience caring for active-duty soldiers, and later developing clinical skills in the post-anesthesia unit at Darnell Army Hospital during the Desert Storm/Desert Shield conflict,” she says.
“The more I learned from the Army nurses, physician assistants and physicians, the more certain I became about continuing in healthcare as a civilian.”
Since separating in 1992, Williams has earned several degrees and numerous professional accolades and promotions leading to her current role as chief of advanced care providers and a geriatric nurse practitioner for Carolina Medical Centers (CMC), the Atrium Health flagship hospital. Atrium Health, based in Charlotte, NC, consists of 40 hospitals and 900 care locations, offering services from emergency medicine to skilled nursing care.
Although Williams credits the military for providing the necessary clinical qualifications, she credits a personal experience for choosing CMC. As a child, she sustained severe burns and underwent plastic surgery at the facility.
“The procedure was ahead of its time because when I tried to have a subsequent surgery as an adult, it was recommended not to because the first procedure was so successful. I knew then that I would one day work for Carolinas Health Care System (the Atrium Health predecessor),” she recalls.
Today she makes sure her team delivers that same caliber of care that she received.
“As a leader and Atrium Health employee, I’m amazed at the efforts of the system to invest in military veterans [and] health through the Live Well program, and [at] the role of advance-care providers being recognized as important contributors to the sustainability of our organization,” she states.
Joseph V. Stewart, MHA, RRT agrees with her about how the company empowers its leaders.
“I decided to work for Atrium Health because I was looking for a stable position that allowed room to grow as a healthcare administrative professional,” says the manager of ambulatory services at Atrium Health’s Ballantyne Urgent Care facility.
“The most surprising aspect of my employer is the level of support I’ve received to manage my department as if it’s my own individual company. I’m responsible for all customer service-related concerns, financial responsibility, including profit-and-loss accountability month to month, and promoting education and growth of all staff members,” he adds.
Stewart began his medical training in the U.S. Navy, transitioning from hospital corpsman to leading the medical department for a U.S. Navy Reserves light armored recon unit as a reservist. He also became a licensed respiratory therapist, nurse’s aide and phlebotomist.
“I found out there were a lot of jobs out there I could do, but I didn’t have all of the certifications to back it up,” he recalls of transitioning into the civilian work world. 
However, his military experience formed the foundation from which he could foresee a new career. Along the way to his current job, he earned an undergraduate degree in healthcare management and a master’s in health science administration. 
Both Stewart and Williams agree that healthcare, much like the military, welcomes diversity.
“Global exposure to different ethnicities is often a major foundation of a veteran, and this acquired trait is why a veteran can thrive in a variety of positions in the workplace,” offers Williams.
“Diversity is not just a black-and-white issue, but a people issue,” adds Stewart. “In a company I like to see young and old, people of different colors and backgrounds learning and growing together to push the common mission. Veterans have an affinity to adapt better in these situations.”
Look up career opportunities with Atrium Health at careers.atriumhealth.org. Follow company achievements on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Yarbro Promotes Wegmens Food Markets Mission
When Drease Yarbro took off his U.S. Army uniform for the last time, he remembers experiencing an array of emotions, including a profound pride for serving in the 93rd Charley air traffic control sector.
“Initially my plan was to be in the military for 30 years, but I had to make a decision of how to support myself and my family,” says Yarbro of his decision to retire. “It was a personal choice for me to not deploy again, or be separated from my wife and son.”
At the time he wasn’t sure where his professional path would lead. He considered opportunities in the government, including the air-traffic sector, but instead chose to accept a position in the grocery industry. 
“People will always have a need for food and a need for a place where they can get food. I wanted to explore that,” he recalls.
After a brief stint with another grocer, Yarbro donned the Wegmans Food Markets uniform in 2006 and once again felt a sense of belonging to an organization with a mission to serve the public.
More than a century ago, John Wegman began selling local produce out of a pushcart in Rochester, NY. Today the third generation of Wegmans sells all kinds of food goods from 99 stores in six states, but still maintains corporate headquarters in Rochester.
For Yarbro the Wegmans philosophy and value system, embodied by its mission statement that “every day you get our best,” seemed reminiscent of the armed services.
“A lot of companies have a mission statement, but my experience at Wegmans is that it’s not just written down or a slogan. It’s a way of life. Initially, that’s also what attracted me to the military, a call to serve,” he explains.
As a store manager, Yarbro executes those values on multiple levels. Of course, he watches the bottom line and operations for his location, but he’s also tagged with the responsibility of being the local representative for the business, which is an element Yarbro takes quite seriously and enjoys.
“I want customers to feel they have a voice. They know me by name and know I have the ability to act on their suggestions,” he says. “You learn so much more by giving folks an outlet to express their opinions.”
These encounters have tested his communication skills. “I thought I was a great communicator in the military, but I’ve learned more about myself and [gained] an understanding of emotional intelligence,” he explains.
“Here there’s a wide range of employees and customers, and I get a lot more out of listening more and speaking less.”
Another responsibility Yarbro takes seriously is recruiting, training and supporting employees who will demonstrate Wegmans’ mission.
“We do our best to find high-energy and enthusiastic people, and give everyone careers. You’re going to get a better class of employees when you give them careers versus just placing them in a job,” says Yarbro.
And while the grocery retail channel may not appear to be a natural venue for military skills, this veteran wants other vets, and employers, to keep an open mind.
“The military landscape can translate anywhere in the country and around [different industries]. Military people are inherently self-sufficient and want to know how to be successful,” he concludes.
Look up career opportunities with Wegmans Food Markets at jobs.wegmans.com. Follow company achievements on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
A Profile in Success
In March 2019 the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics released the latest profile of U.S. veterans. Based on data collected in 2017, analysts examined various demographic delineators, such as age, race, education, and even post-service professions and earnings.
The findings show that veterans oftentimes achieve greater professional success than non-veterans. For instance:
More female veterans pursued careers in management than non-veterans: 50.5% versus 42.7%. 
For men accepting management roles, the numbers were more equitable: 35.5% veterans versus 33.8% non-veterans.
African-American veterans earned a substantially higher median personal income than non-veteran African-Americans: $45,593 versus $27,996.
Source: Profile of Veterans: 2017 prepared by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), va.gov/vetdata
Vet Fact
In June 2019 the veteran unemployment rate was 3.2%, down from 3.3% in June 2018. This represents the lowest veteran unemployment rate in the month of June since 2001.
Source: Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), dol.gov/vets/Latest-Numbers
Vet Numbers
The annual veteran unemployment rate declined to 3.5% in 2018, which is the lowest level since 2000.
The jobless rate for all veterans fell to an 18-year low of 3.5% in 2018, from its peak at 9.9% in 2011.
Unemployment for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 dropped from 4.5% in 2017 to 3.5% in 2018, which is the lowest rate recorded since U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began collecting the data in 2008.
Among the 326,000 unemployed veterans in 2018, nearly 60% were age 45 and older, 35% were ages 25 to 44, and 6% were ages 18 to 24.
The unemployment rate of veterans varied across the country, ranging from 1.4% in Iowa to 6.5% in the District of Columbia.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Employment Situation of Veterans 2018
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