The struggle to find good workers is a perennial complaint of Nevada employers, so some local businesses are turning to military veterans to fill their ranks.
The mining industry, in particular, is focused on recruiting vets. Partly because mining is one of the few industries that continues to grow in Nevada, even during the recession. But mining companies say it’s mostly because veterans are ideally suited for the work.
“We’ve been focusing our efforts on military recruiting for the last two or three years,” says Cindy Wild, talent acquisition manager for Newmont Mining Corp. in Elko. “We like to hire for their skill set. They know how to operate heavy equipment and there are a lot of good mechanics. They’re skills are very transferable.”
In addition, vets usually have worked independently, in round-the-clock shifts in remote areas, and most are looking to commit to a new career, not just the next job, says Wild.
Nationally, the unemployment rate is higher for veterans than it is for the civilian population. In February, the unemployment rate for veterans was 9.4 percent, while the rate in the general population was down to 7.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Nevada, where overall unemployment has remained well above average, the unemployment rate for vets was 9.2 percent last year, 1.5 percent lower than the civilian rate in the state and just under the national rate, according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
DETR is doing what it can to help vets find jobs. Almost all of its JobConnect offices have a veteran outreach specialist who call on veterans and local employers, says Roy Brown, the state veteran coordinator in Las Vegas. (Winnemucca and Ely are the exceptions, and the latter gets a weekly visit from a specialist.) DETR maintains a list of businesses looking for veterans and often provides a training subsidy, up to $9,600, for employers who hire unemployed workers, including veterans, and retrain them under its Silver State Works program.
Barrick Gold Corp. works closely with the Elko JobConnect office to recruit veterans, says Maria Anderson, senior recruiter in Reno. Anderson estimates the company, which has been targeting veterans for the last 18 months, has hired about 12 to 15 vets in the Elko area.
The company also recruits through Universal Technical Institute, a nationwide school for diesel mechanics, out of their Avondale, Ariz., campus, which is the only UTI campus that accepts the GI bill. And like Newmont and other employers, Barrick attends job fairs sponsored by Hiring Our Heroes.
Hiring Our Heroes is a two-year-old program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that has so far hosted 430 jobs fairs nationwide where more than 18,000 vets and spouses of veterans have found jobs, according to Kim Morton, a spokeswoman for the group in Washington, D.C. Caesers Entertainment offered jobs to 94 vets at a fair they held with Hire Our Heroes earlier this month in Las Vegas. The group has held events, for multiple employers, in Sparks and Fallon and has one planned for Reno next summer.
Employers can also take advantage of federal incentives that provide tax credits for hiring vets for up to $2,400 or $4,800 for hiring a disabled veteran.
But most employers say the incentives are more like icing on the cake. The real reward is finding reliable, disciplined employees.
“At the end of the day, that’s peanuts compared to getting a really good employee,” says Harvey Hornung, general manager of Nevada Heat Treating, a 10-year-old manufacturer of machine parts in Carson City. In the last couple years, the company has worked with Job Connect to hire two veterans, both as furnace operators.
“Both have worked out to be very successful,” says Hornung. “We all have some kind of debt to these people and help them any way we can so that’s very important to me.”