STRIVE Workshop Supports Veterans Entering the Civilian Workforce

By Desiree Colon

Veterans offer employers sought-after qualities like discipline, resilience and commitment, yet they’re often overlooked for civilian job opportunities because many of their skills don’t easily translate to the corporate world. Support for those making the transition from military service to private sector work is needed, and demand is rising; the Department of Veterans’ Affairs estimates that by 2023, there will be more than 3.5 million veterans in the civilian job market.

To provide needed support in our area, a group of community partners came together to establish STRIVE – Solutions for Training, Recruiting and Investing in Veterans’ Employment.

The STRIVE steering committee includes employee volunteers from some of the region’s most well-known employers including Unum, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Volkswagen, Tennessee Valley Authority, Erlanger Health System and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Several of STRIVE volunteers have previously served in the armed forces themselves, bringing valuable insight into the needs of service members transitioning to the world of business.

On April 15, STRIVE held its first event, a virtual workshop designed to help human resources, employee relations and diversity & inclusion professionals across the southeastern Tennessee region learn more about working with veterans. The interactive presentation helped 20 participants learn how to better understand a veteran and the skills they bring to strengthen a company’s diversity and brand.

“The workshop was excellent — it was engaging, informative and interactive,” says Yulonda M. Garth, vocational rehabilitation specialist for the Chattanooga VA Clinic. “I took away several ideas to implement in my role when assisting veterans as well as viewing the recruitment, hiring and retention of veterans from an HR/employer perspective.”

During the main presentation, innovation and data science expert Michael Weiss shared how to build an onboarding program that focuses on retention, how to decipher military resumes, practice better interviewing skills, and how to identify strong leaders who will advance a company’s mission.

The event also included a panel discussion where attendees learned about different perspectives around veteran hiring practices and challenges. Panel members included Melissa Grilliot-Hill, business development manager, U.S. Xpress; Christy Pernitzke, IT delivery manager, Unum and Randy Carroll, manager of talent & acquisition, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

The STRIVE Steering Committee members include:

  • Casey Bain, recruiting business partner & UT HR veterans representative, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Madelyn Cave, manager, integrated benefits, Unum
  • Molly Cooper, FUSE operations manager, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office
  • Jason Fleming, manager, ACA/Exchange compliance monitoring, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee
  • Angela Sims, director, diversity & inclusion, Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Jason Vance, director, financial analysis, Unum
  • Michael Weiss, head of data science alliances & innovation, Blue Owl
  • Warren Wells, assistant vice president, government affairs, Unum
  • Pipan Wilson, client liaison, Unum

Overall, organizers were pleased with the event’s reception and look forward to finding additional ways to support veteran hiring practices in the future. For more information or questions about the STRIVE Workshop, please contact Pipan Wilson.