The visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge brought a certain amount of attention and glamour to a job fair for military veterans and their spouses on July 10, 2011, in Los Angeles, with reporters and photographers jostling to cover the newlyweds’ appearance.
However, the real stars of the event, according to the duke and duchess, were the 1,500 veterans and military spouses who came looking for work and the more than 150 employers—many of them Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) members—who were there to talk with the vets and their significant others.
The daylong event was coordinated by ServiceNation: Mission Serve and co-hosted by the U.S. and Los Angeles area chambers of commerce. SHRM, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service and other organizations supported the effort, which the royal couple attended near the end of their North American visit. The duke addressed a group of veterans, and he and the duchess helped prepare boxes for the USO for distribution to children of troops abroad.
According to news media reports, Prince William, who pilots a rescue helicopter for the Royal Air Force, told the veterans that the event was among the most important that he and his bride were attending during their California visit.
“Mission Serve is about something more than men and women in uniform,” he stated. “It’s about our other halves—the half that makes their loved one’s duty and sacrifices possible and worthwhile. It’s about you: the families, partners and friends. The idea behind ServiceNation and Mission Serve is simple but truly inspirational: to help those returning from active service to open a new chapter in their lives.”
He continued: “Catherine and I both have friends back in Britain who could benefit from an initiative like this.”
SHRM’s involvement in the Los Angeles event is part of a broader campaign to match military veterans with jobs. For example, SHRM President and CEO Henry G. (Hank) Jackson went to the White House in April 2011 to support the Joining Forces initiative to help vets gain meaningful employment; he has testified on Capitol Hill about the need for such job opportunities; and events at SHRM’s 2010 and 2011 Annual Conferences have helped veterans and employers find the right fit. (See SHRM Online’s Military Employment Resource Page.) In addition, Jackson has been nominated by U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to serve on the Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training and Employer Outreach.
The June 2011 military employment event at the SHRM 63rd Annual Conference & Exposition filled a large meeting room in the Las Vegas Convention Center and helped HR professionals learn the lingo of the military chain of command and compensation systems and how to translate those structures and pay grades to their organizations.
The Los Angeles job fair with the royal couple “was a real complement to what we did at the Annual Conference” in 2011, Jackson said. He said it was particularly rewarding “to see the veterans interacting with the people, including the SHRM members there. It brought our mission to life and gave me a feeling that what we are doing is very influential and very needed.”
Everyone—the government, veterans, SHRM, other nonprofit groups and employers—involved in the effort to help veterans get jobs wants the same thing, Jackson noted. But the next steps are crucial: “It’s all about how we reach out and get everyone on the same page.”
Jackson said he enjoyed meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and thanked them for their support of the job fair. “They seemed like very down-to-earth people,” Jackson said. But he said he left Los Angeles with a more important sentiment: “a feeling of almost a moral obligation” to provide military veterans with the most basic of rewards for their service—a chance to contribute in the civilian workforce.
Added Jackson: “When you meet these people on an individual basis and hear their stories, you realize how important it is to get them into productive jobs back home.”
Steve Bates is manager of online editorial content for SHRM. He can be reached at email@example.com.
SHRM to Join Royal Couple in Support of Hiring Veterans, Spouses, News About SHRM, June 2011