Guest opinion: Initiative to help employers hire 30,000 veterans |

Guest opinion: Initiative to help employers hire 30,000 veterans

Marianne Watson

A new Colorado statewide initiative, Every Vet Counts! is aiming to empower employers in Colorado to connect with the estimated 30,000-plus Colorado veterans, National Guard members and Reservists still looking for full-time jobs. As the former director of manpower and personnel for the National Guard Bureau, I can say firsthand this is mission critical.

The diverse coalition includes Colorado business associations, government agencies, nonprofits and veterans’ groups. The focus is on developing innovative ways to help employers hire more veterans easier and faster.

“A first step,” said Rick Crandall, president of the Colorado Freedom Memorial, 2012 Colorado Broadcaster of the Year and Air Force veteran, “is that I’ve just sent an email invitation to 12,000 small employers asking them to participate in a short online survey. We need employers to participate in the survey so we can zero in on specific real-world problems that are holding employers back from hiring veterans. Survey results will help to develop more effective free small business education and networking resources necessary to solve the problems.”

All employers can participate in the survey. Employers can respond anonymously or include an email address to receive announcements of new free resources.

Go to and input Colorado code for the first question: C888.

“It is important that businesses from all parts of Colorado and all industries participate in the survey,” said Stephanie Veck, Colorado Workforce Development Council director, “so the results appropriately reflect Colorado’s diversity and diverse needs, thereby informing the development of valuable information and resources that will provide benefit to employers in all locations and industries throughout Colorado.”

“In many cases, the services are available in Colorado to help small businesses succeed in military hiring. However, time and availability of staff may limit the reach and effectiveness of the services,” said Elaine Edon, coordinator, veterans programs, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

“In other cases, industry-specific requirements or geographical location can make the connection between an employer and prospective veteran a random and frustrating experience. In order to further our impact on Colorado’s veteran unemployment, going forward we must ensure that services and resource networks are easy to access and relevant to meeting their hiring needs. The Every Vet Counts! survey gives employers the opportunity to tell us what they need in their location and in their industry,” Edon added.

Izzy Abbass, first vice president of the United Veterans Committee of Colorado, whose members include 50 veterans’ support groups in the state, said, “UVC has endorsed this effort because it is obvious that if we can help all the small employers in the state to hire veterans, thousands of veterans who have served their country can capitalize on their skills and experience in good, meaningful careers.”

The initial group of participating Colorado organizations also includes Action 22; Associated Builders & Contractors Rocky Mountain Chapter; Association of Equipment Management Professionals; Colorado National Guard, Colorado Restaurant Association, Colorado Wastewater Utility Association, Emergency Medical Services Association of Colorado, Mountain States Employers Council, Mount Carmel Center of Excellence, Outdoor Industry Association, Pikes Peak Military Care Network, Progressive 15, Small Business Development Center Network and Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans.

The “Every Vet Counts!” Colorado Employer Survey, coordinated by nonprofit Center for America, is the first internet-based survey about veteran hiring in Colorado. The survey results will be shared with all organizations participating in the project.

Together, we’re going to provide employers with free directories, video programs, live webinars, employer guides on veteran hiring, and other resources so recruiters get better help to connect with veterans, National Guard members and Reservists to help build their organizations. Bringing employers and military candidates together more efficiently is our number one priority.

This effort is sponsored by DaVita Corp., The Anschutz Foundation and other nongovernmental organizations. DaVita and Phillips 66 have also sponsored four free CFA Employer Guides on key aspects of hiring veterans which employer can download now at no cost from the CFA website at

We hope your organization will want to support this win-win initiative to bring employers and veterans together.

Brig. Gen. (ret.) Marianne Watson is director of outreach at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for America. She served as director of National Guard affairs while deployed in Afghanistan and subsequently as the director of manpower and personnel at the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. She is a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army. Contact her at

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