By Katelyn Sides, Baker Workforce Recruitment Director
Hiring Our Heroes hosted an info session at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber in early February, and more than 80 people attended from 60 different companies in our area. Hiring Our Heroes Executive Director Chuck Hodges talked to attendees about their Corporate Fellowship Program, which started five years ago.
This program provides transitioning service members with professional training and hands-on experience in the civilian workforce while still on active-duty service. What’s interesting – this program is FREE to employers. It has grown significantly, too. In 2015, 76 fellows participated in the program at two locations. This past year, 893 fellows went through the program at 16 locations. That is a lot of growth over four years!
“Hiring Our Heroes’ mission is to connect military talent with employers who value the experience and training received during military service,” said Hodges. “The fellowship program is successful because it allows the candidates and the employers the opportunity to see if the position is a good fit – in skills and culture – on both sides. This enables not only job placement, but a career trajectory for men and women as they transition out of the military.”
So how does this work? Transitioning service members must apply on Hiring Our Heroes’ website to be in the program. They are required to have either a two or four-year degree with additional years of experience. They sign up for this program at least six months before they transition out of service, and the applicants undergo a selective screening process, including interviews with host companies.
Companies can sign up to be hosts at hiringourheroes.org/fellowships/corporatefellows. It is a very simple and easy process. The main requirement is that you have an open position this fellow could potentially fill after completing the fellowship.
Once Hiring Our Heroes knows which companies are participating and what jobs they are looking to fill, they release resumés to the companies and release the companies to the fellows. At that point, it’s like match.com between employers and fellows, and the interviews begin.
The fellowship features a 12-week syllabus and runs three times a year at select military installations and in host cities around the country. Fellowship candidates are carefully matched with participating companies based on the specific skills of the candidate and the preferences of both parties. They work for your company during the fellowship at no cost to you. You don’t pay them, and you don’t even need to provide them benefits because they are still covered and paid through the military. Remember, they are still active duty.
This program allows the candidate to experience the work environment and gives the employer an opportunity to determine if the candidate’s skill set and aspirations are a match. A hire is not required, but this program was made to place service members into great jobs after they transition out of the military. Hiring Our Heroes has a 90 percent job offer rate, which means this program is working for both transitioning service members and employers.
There are a handful of Huntsville/Madison County companies already participating in the program. Currently, Lockheed Martin is hosting a fellow, Laura Ruiz. She is from Fort Bliss, Texas, and is enjoying her stay in the Rocket City so far. We visited her on the job in February to ask about her experience.
“Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program is an outstanding program,” said Ruiz, Hiring Our Heroes corporate fellow. “It really gives you the opportunity to get experience with a company before you get out into the real world. From all of the interactions I have had with my peers who are also currently in the program, it is a great opportunity.”
“The program is very good. It gives great access to a talent pool that we don’t always have access to,” said John Hall, systems engineering manager at Lockheed Martin. “Laura came to us with a clearance and experience with the military and that environment. She was able to jump right in and get right to work instead of some employees where you have to bring them up to speed on the program or wait for their clearance to go through.”
Lockheed Martin has been participating in the program for three years, and this is the first fellow they have hosted at their Huntsville location.
“Just from my experience, there are so many service members who love Huntsville and who have been to Huntsville for training, and they want to either retire here or come here as a potential job location,” said Ruiz.
Upcoming Fellowship Opportunities:
2020 COHORT 3 (August 24–November 12)
2021 COHORT 1 (January 11–April 2)
Interested in having access to a talent pool with military experience and clearances? This free program is for you. Check out hiringourheroes.org/fellowship/corporatefellows for more information or to sign up for the program.
This article appears in the April 2020 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.