Veterans should be part of the solution to northern Nevada’s workforce woes, according to local leaders who served in the military themselves.
Area manufacturers say finding qualified workers is their No. 1 concern, said Rob Hooper, executive director, Northern Nevada Development Authority, at the group’s monthly breakfast at the Carson Nugget Wednesday.
To help address that, employers should look to veterans whose experience prepares them for a range of jobs, said Mayor Bob Crowell, City Manager Nick Marano and Douglas County Commissioner Barry Penzel, all veterans who spoke at the meeting.
“Veterans are team players. That’s how they survive in war time and in peace time,” said Crowell, a retired U.S. Navy captain.
The mayor said veterans are trained to take responsibility and be held accountable, and be organized problem solvers.
“The primary reason, in my view, is the veterans’ work ethic,” said Crowell. “They will make you money and it’s the right thing to do.”
Crowell pointed to Marano, a retired U.S. Marine Corp colonel hired by the city in 2014.
“He really gets things moving,” said Crowell. “He doesn’t suffer fools.”
Marano said he wanted to challenge local employers to think outside the box when hiring veterans.
He said it took him 18 months to land his current job, after interviewing extensively and despite his experience leading a combat and counterinsurgency operation on the Syrian border in western Iraq.
Marano said he had eight interviews with one Fortune 100 company and thought he had the job.
“Then I met with the COO and he told me you don’t have the experience we’re looking for and we’d be taking a chance on you,” he said.
Marano said an Army major, for example, might not know a specific industry such as construction, but still be ideal for a managerial job because that’s exactly what he did in the military.
“When you say you’re veteran friendly, you’ll give him an entry-level job,” said Marano. “Are you going to give him that project management spot?”
Penzel, a retired U.S. Army colonel, said veterans receive strong ethics training when they serve, something employers should appreciate.
“If they tell you they’re going to do something, you can take it to the bank,” he said.
But some veterans struggle, which is why Penzel established Welcome All Veterans Everywhere, or WAVE, a mentoring group who helps Douglas County veterans with whatever they need to get their feet on the ground.
“It’s veterans helping veterans,” he said.
He implored employers to be honest when they decide not to hire a veteran or end up letting one go.
“Not every veteran is a superior performer and we know that,” said Penzel. “But if they’re not, let us know. We’ll help them.”