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Improving Your Veteran Recruiting Plan

Dec 09, 2021

Employer partners tell us often that they are focused on trying to hire veterans. They describe veterans as high-quality employees who are extremely dependable and who come from very structured environments and have highly specialized skills. Employers also feel a sense of duty to those who served in the military and employers in SC, in particular, are very focused on trying to do the right thing by veterans by providing as many fulfilling employment opportunities as they can. In some cases, employers with federal contracts may even have requirements to hire and/or offer a specific number of jobs to veterans.

"We need more employers to be engaged in...creating a pathway for veterans to come into your organization to thrive." – Kyle Caldwell, Third Generation Combat Veteran | Human Resources, United Infrastructure Group

Motivated by his own experience as a third-generation combat veteran, Kyle shares that when finishing his tour overseas in Afghanistan, on the way home, 43% of the guys in his unit didn't know what they were going to do next. This launched Kyle into a new career in military recruitment in workforce development not only in South Carolina but regionally working with a lot of CSOs and affinity groups.

The military uses MOS (Military Occupational Speciality) as a way to categorize jobs (i.e. driver of fleet trucks). When some leave the military, they may be seen by employers (and maybe even by themselves) as only capable of performing that related position (truck driver). Because MOS crosswalk hasn't been updated since World War II, so much of the skillset of veterans and what they can bring to the table gets lost in translation to the civilian world.

When vets transition out of the military, many complete a veteran transition workshop. Much of what is ingrained in them up to that point is teamwork, working together to accomplish the mission, the task at hand. But at the end of it all, a vet's last taste of the military is that it's up to him/her alone to determine the next steps towards a new career – what it will be and how to find it.

while some vets will tap into their network and find jobs, many will go it alone and may miss opportunities because they just don't understand how to navigate and how to make their military background translate to a civilian resume.

It's Almost Like There's a Language Barrier

There may be a company out there that's trying to desperately hire CDL drivers and they might have a resume come through that says this person just left the Army and their job was as a MIC. But what does that mean to an employer?

Making sure your hiring manager(s) can translate military occupations is crucial. Not only that, employers should establish a formal program like an apprenticeship or tap into established programs like the VetSuccess Program.

The VetSuccess Program is for veterans with a 10% veterans administrative disability or higher. They can be hired into virtually any municipal, county, state, or federal position as an intern, and the federal government will pay their salary for up to six months allowing them to build their resume.

"I've personally hired three Chiefs of Staff from Fort Jackson and I have personally hired five Sergeant Majors...using the VetSuccess program." – Kevin Shwedo, SC Department of Motor Vehicles and Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army

At the SC Department of Motor Vehicles, Kevin Shwedo has hired over 100 veterans over the last 10 years using the VetSuccess Program. At the two-month mark, he loses a full third of them because somebody hires them away from him. At the same two-month mark, he hires about a third of them and, by the time that they get to the six-month mark 96% have a job. Most employers see how good they are, stereotypes about soldiers fade away and they've got every soft skill that they're looking for. They see first-hand that veterans are driven individuals. It may become the longest interview in mankind, but it's a WIN-WIN for everyone involved!

Veterans want to be hired because you understand the skills that they bring to your organization. They don't want you to hire them because of their service but because they are the best candidate for the job. There is a disservice when an organization puts the stamp out there that they are "Military Friendly" but only for entry level jobs, with no career pathways.

Veterans are coming from a place where they had very clear outlines of what their job was. They had very clear expectations as to what kind of training they were going to receive. They had a very structured career path that they followed in the military but when they come into the civilian world, a lot of the employers that are begging them to come work, don't have a similar structure set up.

Apprenticeship May Be The Perfect Tool

The military has one of the most formal and organized apprenticeship programs of anybody, whether they call them apprentices or not. If you sign up for four years, you've got an idea of where you're going to start in terms of rank and pay. If successful and with training, you can plan for what your rank and pay will be at the end of that four years.

This is just like the SC apprenticeship model, where there is a clear route of where you will begin your career pathway and where it will take you, along with the training you'll receive along the way. It provides motivation, career progression and sets expectations, something vets are used to and will appreciate. Answering those big questions upfront makes your organization more attractive.

There is another essential benefit of being located in the Midlands of South Carolina where there are registered apprenticeship programs. Vets can tap into a housing allowance that is covered by the VA if they participate in a tailored apprenticeship program. Employers provide a salary and training and the VA provides housing allowances up to $1,400 per month, which becomes a substantial advantage to both the veteran and the employer.

Resources Are Out There

The best way to know about hiring vets is to be around the veteran community, so link up with your local organization.

Employers should get connected with the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) at

Veterans go to the VA for a number of different things and employment is one of them. 

Research the Department of Defense Skillbridge at and tap into the expertise of transitioning service members by sponsoring internship and pre-apprenticeship opportunities.

Become a member of Columbia Chamber of Commerce Military Outreach Group and get involved. And consider becoming a member of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA).

Get connected through higher education institutions including the 16 technical colleges throughout the state that have veteran coordinators and/or veteran employment representatives.

"If you're not getting creative and trying to find a way to put together a better pipeline to get people into your critical positions, your competition will and is going to get even tougher." – Jeremy Catoe, Business Solution Director | Midlands Technical College

Want to watch the entire webinar about this topic? Visit MIDLANDSTECH.EDU/programs-and-courses/corporate/resources

Want to watch the entire webinar about this topic?

Ready to get started?

MTC and Apprenticeship Carolina make it easy.

A Few Facts:

  1. More Veterans are being hired. In September 2021, the veteran unemployment rate was 3.8% vs. 5.2% general population – making it a very competitive hiring market.
    So, what are you doing better to differentiate yourself to attract and retain veterans?
  2. In 2020, 54% of the veterans that were unemployed were between the ages of 25-54. A lot of military retirees are still very young when they leave service with lots of potential and talent.
    How do you recruit vets and keep them at your organization for a long, long time?
  3. Veterans employees have a better long-term retention rate than most other demographics. However, they also have a higher first year turnover rate.
    How do you support veteran employees during their first years?
  4. 55% of the veterans that transition out of the military don't want to do the job they did in the military but have strong soft skills.
    Do you think outside the box? Are you flexible? Can you tailor positions that you're looking to fill by upskilling veterans?

How Midlands Technical College Can Support You

MTC can help connect you to other partner and veteran resources. MTC is very focused on providing customized training for new and seasoned employees. Let us know what your issues are and together we will explore the training options and resources available to best address your needs.

Interested in building an apprenticeship approach to recruiting employees? In Richland, Lexington, and Fairfield Counties, calling Midlands Technical College is the first step.

Apprenticeship has three components:

  1. Job-related education, on-the-job training, and graduated pay scale. If you hire employees and provide them training, you are doing job-related education.
  2. If you allow new hires to learn how to do their daily tasks by working with more experienced employees and learning hands-on, you are doing on-the-job training.
  3. If your good hires typically get at least one raise early on, you have a graduated pay scale. If all of the above are true, you have an apprenticeship.

Registering your most critical positions brings several benefits. You will not only increase your recruiting and retention advantages, in South Carolina, your company can qualify for a tax credit of $1,000 per apprentice, per year of their apprenticeship.

Contact Jeremy Catoe at for more information.

What not to do is just as important as what to do.

> Don't just put a sticker on the door.
> Don't just build an apprenticeship program.
> Don't just learn to speak military language.

Determine how to make it all work together. Be committed to making use of all the resources out there to make the right connections and offer the right opportunities and offer them in the right way to veterans.

Don't just hire veterans to say you do or to check a box or because they served. Put time into developing a formal program like an apprenticeship. You will discover the ROI is worth the efforts and that your veteran employees will help your organization grow and thrive.