NIHRA's Award-Winning Program Helps Veterans Find Employment

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 16, 2014

The Northeast Indiana HR Association (NIHRA), a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter, won a 2013 Pinnacle Award for its efforts to help veterans enter the civilian workforce. Chapters of similar size compete annually against one another; applicants are evaluated on how well their programs served the HR professional, advanced the profession or enhanced the SHRM community.

NIHRA, which currently has 279 members, won in the medium/large SHRM chapter division under the Advancing the HR Profession category for its program, “HR Joins the Ranks: Training & Jobs for Our Heroes.”

Winning chapters and state councils receive $1,000 from award sponsor ADP Inc., a diamond pin for chapter presidents and state council directors, and a replica of the pin for board members.

NIHRA was among nine chapters and two state councils selected from more than 70 applicants. It was one of two chapters and one state council whose focus on veterans won a Pinnacle; the others were the Morris County (N.J.) SHRM chapter for its “Tomorrow’s Promise” program and Washington state council for its “Veteran Pre-employment Academy.”

“HR Joins the Ranks: Training & Jobs for Our Heroes”

The Northeast Indiana chapter formed a workforce readiness committee, developed a three-year plan, and partnered with employers, the military and business groups. It rolled out phase one of at a monthly chapter meeting in 2011 that included the Presentation of Colors and speakers from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve’s (ESGR) “America’s Heroes at Work” hiring initiative.

During the first two years, the chapter:

*Recognized local employers that hired veterans.*Took a leading role at various veteran career days—conducting workshops on resume writing, performing one-on-one interviews and resume reviews, offering job search tips and talking about transferable skills.

*Provided job preparation training to soldiers at nearby Camp Atterby.

*Conducted training sessions in May 2012 at a national U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event that attracted 220 veterans and 70 employers.

“We really felt very good about the difference we made in our veterans’ lives as well as our community in just this one [chamber] event,” said Paul Gauger, NIHRA past president, during a webcast NIHRA did with SHRM.

NIHRA partnered with local universities and community colleges, including the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University; state agencies, such as WorkOne; and the ESGR. The ESGR has software that translates the terminology of military skills into business language; chapter members used this to help veterans with their resumes.

In addition, NIHRA tapped the expertise of its board member and veteran Pam Gilley, SPHR

“She was invaluable to us throughout our veteran initiatives,” said Bonnie Moorman, NIHRA workforce readiness director.

The chapter also used HR students as interns at one of the military job training events and received feedback from the Indiana WorkOne Veteran Representative State Conference on how to strengthen its program, according to Gauger.

In the program’s third year, the emphasis was on employers. That included:

*Providing data to employers on the benefits of hiring veterans, including tax credits.

*Promoting and participating in ESGR’s “Boss Lift” program, which flew 200 employers and NIHRA members to a briefing and Coast Guard installation in upper Michigan, so they could see the quality of training that personnel receive.

*Continuing to recognize local employers that hire veterans.

NIHRA sprang into action to co-host a 2013 job fair for more than 500 members of a Coast Guard battalion when their deployment was canceled. The service members had already left their jobs and needed employment. It was an example of how “in this region, we were the go-to group for getting jobs and training for our veterans,” said Moorman.

Noted Gauger: “When [veterans] return home to civilian life, we need to provide assistance and expertise … How better for us to serve them, we believe, than to use our skills and contacts” to aid them in their job search.The chapter is continuing its program, and it held a “Veterans 1st Hiring Event” in May 2014, where 20 NIHRA members reviewed the resumes of veterans and their spouses. Participating employers were required to have open job positions available. More details on the chapter’s program are available in a webcast NIHRA did with SHRM.

The deadline for 2014 Pinnacle applications is Sept. 9, 2014. Winners will be announced at the 2014 SHRM Leadership Conference in November.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.

Related Articles:

SHRM Affiliates from 10 States Win Pinnacle Award for Exceptional HR Programs, Inside SHRM, November 2013

SHRM Enhances Pinnacle Awards, Inside SHRM, April 2013

Related Resource:

SHRM Awards and Scholarships, Volunteer Resources


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