This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

April 16, 2008

Returning Vets Make Great Workers

Sandy Westlund-Deenihan, CEO of Quality Float Works in Schaumberg, Illinois is a model employer. "Nobody is really addressing the issues of greater numbers of people (returning veterans) coming out of the war with disabilities", said Westlund-Deenihan. Advances in battleground medical science have kept more wounded soldiers alive.

Having lived through the ordeal with family members, Westlund-Deenihan is on a personal campaign to hire and fast-track returning vets. The technology used in the military translates well to advanced manufacturing. In addition to having technological skills, they get themselves to work on time and stay focused. Some returning veterans are told to "dummy down", because they make their supervisors look bad.

Westlund-Deenihan also laments the fact that many employers are "uneducated" about the costs of hiring people with disabilities, as well as compliance issues. "They have no idea what outstanding employees these veterans make", she adds. "They even make excellent mentors for younger employees."

Returning veterans can integrate easily into the workforce. They have the skills that employers need. The problem lies with the Transition Assistance Programs (TAPs). The military jargon in their resumes simply does not translate directly into civilian equivalents.

The United States is not "really facing the crisis of homeless veterans---many of whom are people with disabilities". Society is unaware of the challenges: the housing and mortgage markets and psychological issues. "It is time for us to come up with solutions, especially with the workforce challenges the country faces. Westlund-Deenihan partners with community colleges to encourage government and community leaders to support fast-tracking workforce development.

About one-third of Quality's employee population is people with disabilities, including high schoolers who are good with their hands for work-study programs. Westlund-Deenihan really understands how employing people with disabilities makes a difference in responding to the skilled labor shortage facing manufacturers today. "We can not overlook these people with disabilities; they are the key to America staying globally competitive." It is no wonder that Quality is one of the fastest-growing manufacturing companies in the United States.

As global labor markets tighten, expect more employers to embrace the value of hiring people with disabilities.

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