U.S. companies investing in programs to help hire and house veterans

By Maria Saporta

Major companies in the United States are stepping up to help veterans find jobs and housing to help in their transition from military service back to civilian life.

The companies range from Atlanta-based Home Depot to Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines to New York-based JPMorgan Chase, which has a growing presence in Atlanta.

The Home Depot recently launched a career assistance program for U.S. service men and women, calling the new program: Mission Transition.

Home Depot CEO Frank Blake on Wednesday talked about the company’s commitment to veterans during at Atlanta Press Club’s Newsmaker luncheon at the Commerce Club.

Saying that his son had served in Iraq, Blake said that the nation does not always appreciate “the incredible sacrifices that people are making day in and day out.”

One of the biggest issues facing veterans is homelessness.

“More than 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night,” Blake said. “Our mission is to insure that every veteran has a safe place to call home.”

The company made a commitment in 2011 to spend more than $30 million on housing for veterans within three years. They fulfilled that commitment in two years.

“We are committing an additional $50 million over the next three years,” Blake said. Those dollars will go to housing nonprofits across the country. Home Depot’s volunteer employees also have pledged to lend their time and talent to repair and remodel veterans’ homes and facilities.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase has been the driving force behind the 100,000 Jobs Mission. The Mission was formed in March 2011 by JPMorgan Chase and 10 other companies and committed to hiring 100,000 veterans by 2020.

Last Thursday, JPMorgan Chase announced that the coalition has now grown to 76 companies, and includes top-named brands like Delta Air Lines, AT&T, Cisco, Caterpillar, Lockheed Martin, Verizon, Toys R Us, Anheuser-Busch, Direct TB and Deloitte.

As of Sept. 30, those companies collectively have hired 28,186 veterans, meaning that it has reached a quarter of its goal in only 18 months.

Shannon O’Reilly, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase, said that the financial services company alone has hired 4,500 veterans since March 2011.

The 100,000 Jobs Mission is free to join, she said. The only required is that they have to commit to track and report the number of veterans that they have hired on a quarterly basis.

The Mission actually hosted its 2012 third quarter coalition meeting on Oct. 10 at the headquarters of Delta Air Lines. The meeting included working group sessions on several topics including hiring and retaining veterans as well as hiring employees of the National Guard and Reserve.

One of the targeted groups of the Mission is veterans between the ages of 18 and 25. Their unemployment rate is significantly higher than the national average.

Although it’s not part of the 100,000 Jobs Mission, Home Depot’s efforts to hire veterans and provide career assistance is just as impressive.

On Oct. 27,Home Depot will conduct more than 100 half-day training sessions across the country to help members of the military with their job search in most any industry or employer.

It also has created an online military skills translator to help match an applicant’s unique military skills with positions that might offer the best fit.

Also, Home Depot currently employs more than 35,000 veterans and service members out of its 300,000 workforce.

“Get involved and think about how you can help our veteran community,” Blake said at the Press Club lunch. And most importantly, the nation needs to fully “appreciate the sacrifices that have been made every day by our armed services.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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