Annually, 250,000 troops are transitioning out of the military, according to the Department of Defense. Many are returning home to their loved ones and communities across the country, including in Charlotte. While some of these men and women are quickly adjusting to civilian life, using their skills honed in the most challenging of circumstances, others face uncertainty.
Employment is the highest challenge many veterans face. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from March highlight that the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 – a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans – was at 9.0 percent in 2013 and continues to be higher than the national average.
No one individual or organization can address this national challenge alone. We owe this to the forces who volunteered to defend us. Companies large and small, community leaders, non-profit organizations and individual Americans are coming together to meet the challenge. Charlotte’s diverse business community has started to help the more than 6,000 Gulf War II era veterans already living in the area, as well as the many others expected to settle here upon leaving the military.
That’s why last year, Charlotte Bridge Home invited local businesses and leaders to attend the Community Veterans Summit to raise awareness of the needs of returning soldiers, as well as to work with companies on two priorities: connecting returning veterans to employment opportunities and building a network of resources for them.
Since last year, we have worked with business and educational leaders to form the Charlotte Alliance for Veteran Employment. This coalition of local businesses, including Bank of America, Ingersoll Rand, Family Dollar and 21 others, has made a commitment to recruit, hire and retain veterans. CAVE is also raising community awareness of the issue.
Today, we’re hosting our second summit to build upon what we started last year. We’re focused on providing businesses, HR professionals and local leaders with tools to recruit and retain veterans.
Bank of America has hired more than 4,000 veterans, guard and reserve members since 2011, and is committed to hiring 10,000 more over the next several years. It is through partnerships like those between Charlotte Bridge Home and other CAVE businesses that we’re able to help transition veteran hires. This open dialogue and sharing of practices will help other organizations just beginning to look at veterans as job candidates.
We at Charlotte Bridge Home and Bank of America are proud to join other organizations to rally behind our soldiers. The Charlotte business community has a responsibility to deepen its support. Ensuring that veterans successfully transition home and into meaningful careers is one of the best ways we can show how much we appreciate their service.
Tommy Norman is the founder and chairman of Charlotte Bridge Home. Charles Bowman is N.C. and Charlotte market president for Bank of America.
This article originally appeared in The Charlotte Observer publication. Content was produced by outside parties not affiliated with Bank of America. Opinions or ideas expressed are not necessarily those of Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, U.S. Trust or Bank of America Merrill Lynch, nor do they reflect their views or endorsement. These materials are for informational purposes only. Bank of America, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, U.S. Trust and Bank of America Merrill Lynch do not assume liability for any loss or damage resulting from anyone's reliance on the information provided.