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Transitioning from military service back to civilian life brings many important decisions and changes, and for many veterans, finding a job is at the top of their to-do list. While it is widely known that veterans and their spouses bring a number of valuable characteristics to the workplace—dependability, responsibility, adaptability, leadership—it’s less common that employers truly understand how these skills were developed.

Employers are increasingly competing to attract high-quality candidates of all kinds, and this includes veterans. Just as a job candidate must be prepared for success, there are steps employers can take to be prepared for success in attracting top candidates. Businesses that understand military culture and communication can greatly improve their chances of recruiting and hiring military veterans.

Companies often describe themselves as “veteran-friendly” as a way to express their desire to employ veterans and demonstrate their patriotism by recognizing veterans’ service and sacrifice—but there is a difference between simply being veteran-friendly and being fully veteran-ready. The businesses that learn about this distinction will stand out in veterans’ job searches.

Wisconsin’s “Vets Ready Employer” initiative—a partnership among WEDC, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce—is yet another way the state is demonstrating its ongoing commitment to helping veterans and their families find success. The initiative aims to reduce unemployment among the veteran population in Wisconsin by encouraging employers to prioritize hiring veterans, adopt best practices to better support veterans—as well as military spouses and caregivers—in their employ, and facilitate connections to the broader veteran community. By applying for, and receiving, recognition as a “Vets Ready Employer,” a business demonstrates a strong commitment to strategically building an engaged veteran network, both inside and outside their workplace.

Companies that apply to the program will be scored on four key themes: supporting veterans in the workplace, hiring veterans, connecting to the veteran community, and military spouse/caregiver support.

Additionally, in order to be considered, an interested applicant must post their jobs on the Job Center of Wisconsin website and must offer competitive wages (defined as wages that are average or above average for the occupation and region, as determined using labor market information available on WisConomy). The annual application deadline will be May 31.

“In today’s highly competitive marketplace, this initiative is a win-win for veterans and for businesses,” says WEDC Talent Initiatives Director Rebecca Deschane. “Military families will now be able to readily search and find employment opportunities with organizations that have earned the ‘Vets Ready Employer’ designation. Meanwhile, businesses can quickly distinguish themselves as fully committed to cultivating a vibrant workplace culture that proactively supports veterans and their families.”

Employers that receive the Wisconsin designation will have made significant progress to be eligible for recognition by the U.S. Department of Labor. The HIRE Vets Medallion Program recognizes businesses that employ and retain veterans, including efforts to establish employee development programs for veterans and employers who offer veteran-specific benefits to improve retention.

Visit WiscJobsforVets.com to learn more about veteran employment in Wisconsin and the Vets Ready Employer Initiative. WEDC’s website also has information on how employers can connect with veterans preparing to conclude their military service.