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Women in Skilled Trades

One Company Proves What it Means to Be Veteran Strong

Photo: Courtesy of Dawn Jones Redstone

Joseph O. Wesley retired from the Army in 1982 during a recession. Unable to find work as a heavy equipment operator, he used skills learned in the military to open a small electrical contracting business in Cleveland, Ohio. Joe took on any project to get by, completing each to perfection as if it were to be scrutinized by his former commanders. His reputation and business grew as a result. And so did the challenge to find qualified electricians to meet his ever-fluctuating workload on projects around town.

Paying it forward​​​​​​​

This was the genesis behind Joe’s founding of one of the nation’s first construction-focused, veteran-owned staffing services, Tradesmen International. 25 years later, the company — now owned by The Blackstone Group — has 171 recruitment and operations facilities in 45 states. Tradesmen regularly employs 10,000 construction and office professionals who serve leading commercial and industrial contractors and shipbuilders. This is a true veteran success story.

“Our company has always welcomed former military onto our team,” said Matt McClone, Tradesmen International’s VP of Workforce Development. “Our founder was a vet, and we’re proud that nearly 10 percent of our employees nationally served.”

Recruiting the best 

When asked how the company attained such a large percentage of veteran employees, McClone, the spouse of an Army veteran, replied, “As part of our on-going diversity initiative, we’ve always worked to add vets to our field and office teams. When our recruiters receive a resume with noted military experience, the natural reaction is always positive based on the good experience we’ve had hiring other vets. Those individuals were interviewed and asked to join our team upon completing the stringent, face-to-face vetting process all our candidates go through.”

Tradesmen International now has an even more aggressive strategic veteran’s hiring initiative under a program designated We Are Veteran Stronger. “With the skilled trade shortage so critical, we’re actively seeking out veterans to apply for craft professional positions,” said McClone. “We regularly post openings on 32 military-focused job boards, participate in veteran job fairs and promote career openings to vets on social media. Our referral program outright asks our thousands of employees to introduce us to friends and family members who served in the military and are looking for work.

Succeeding on the job 

“Critical to our success,” stressed McClone, “is educating our recruiters on the reasons the phrase ‘We Are Veteran Stronger’ is a resoundingly true statement. Essentially, we find our veteran, reservist and guardsmen colleagues make Tradesmen International stronger because of their exceptional work ethic, emphasis on quality, respectful nature and leadership qualities. Also because they show concern for fellow construction workers. While I’m not comparing jobsite dangers with what our troops experience on battlefields, our vet employees not only emphasize personal safety, they make sure those around them are properly protected, wearing the correct PPE, being tied-off, etc. I firmly believe this is part of their military make-up; we love them even more for it.”

Easing the transition 

It is not always easy for veterans to equate their military experience and skillsets to civilian job requirements. Tradesmen reduced this challenge by adding the “Military Occupation Code Crosswalk” to their Veteran’s Career Site. Veterans simply need to type in their MOC code and the system automatically suggests the best matches for their military skillsets to Tradesmen’s job openings.

Tradesmen vows to build upon their new veteran hiring initiative. “We are now setting more aggressive veteran outreach goals for 2018 and beyond,” said McClone. “We’re honored to work alongside these heroes who protected or continue to protect our freedoms.”

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