Vets bring job skills

First Posted: 1/23/2015

LIMA — After saving lives on a foreign battle field, Eric Music was able to come back home and continue to do “his part.”

Music, 31 and an Army veteran, works as a Bath Township firefighter, a job that complements his military work experience and allows him a structure he was used to when he was in the Army.

“Those guys now have the ability to come off the battlefield and into a world where they can” save lives, said Music’s boss, Bath Fire Chief Joseph Kitchen, who employs seven veterans now. “They are still serving.”

As veterans come back to civilian life, they may bring several skills that can be valuable to employers — a fact some employers are beginning to realize, said Cynthia Spiers, vice president of student affairs at Rhodes State College.

“There is a huge focus on the value of veterans and service members in our community,” she said.

Spiers often gets calls from companies asking if the college has any veterans available for them to hire, and she said they are “excellent employees.”

“They’re used to a disciplined work environment, usually very highly skilled in one skill or another, tend to be very reliable employees and are great at following instructions,” said Joe Patton, workforce development coordinator at Ohio Means Jobs.

Ohio Means Jobs has a veterans representative who helps veterans get jobs, and Patton said some companies call and ask specifically for veterans.

The Ohio Department of Transportation hosts a veterans apprenticeship program, out of which it sometimes hires the veterans, said Kirk Slusher, ODOT District 1 deputy director.

“A lot of time [veterans] make very good candidates for the type of jobs we’re posting,” he said. “It’s a good match because of discipline and skill sets they get in the military end up being a good match for us.”

Jared Sawyer, who’s currently in the Navy Reserve, works at ODOT as a highway maintenance technician and got the job through the apprenticeship program.

Veterans are in the mindset of “just do it and get the job done,” Sawyer said. He believes veterans bring a team atmosphere and discipline to civilian jobs.

“In my job I don’t let anybody fail … because if they fail, I fail. It’s a sense of team pride,” he said.

In addition to specific skills and personality traits, companies can also get a tax credit for hiring veterans.

Businesses who hire veterans, ex-offenders and other designated groups are eligible for The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which can lessen an employer’s federal income tax liability by up to $9,600 per veteran.

Elmcroft of Lima, an assisted-living facility, has five veterans working there and takes advantage of the tax credit, said Executive Director Bridget Sharp.

The credit is an added benefit, but hasn’t played into the company’s decision to hire veterans. Sharp likes to hire veterans because they possess integrity and passionately pursue excellence, part of the facility’s mission, she said.

They also make certain residents feel more comfortable.

“With us working with a population of seniors, we have many residents that are veterans,” she said. “They’re more respected by the residents, it gives them some camaraderie.”

John Hirschfeld, president of Quality Ready Mix, said his company hires veterans and uses the tax credit, though it’s not the only reason the company hires veterans.

“It goes back to the whole thing of we need drivers,” Hirschfeld said, as his company is feeling the national lack of qualified truck drivers. “It could be there, it could not be there.”

Though Hirshfeld appreciates the level of discipline veterans possess, he has also had some bad experiences when hiring veterans.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder seems to be a lot bigger deal with recent wars than with veterans getting out of Vietnam,” he said, explaining that some employees have had to stop working while in the midst of a job because of PTSD.

Still, he encourages others to “give a vet a shot,” as he intends to keep doing.