Recruiting and retaining veterans in NH’s workforce was the focus of a symposium attended by a statewide network of certified “Veteran-Friendly Businesses” at the Puritan Conference Center in Manchester on Nov. 7. The event was hosted by the NH Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services and NH Employment Security.
In his opening remarks, Maj. General David Mikolaities, adjutant general for the NH National Guard, told the roughly 30 veteran friendly workplace representatives and others in attendance that the mission of the Veteran-Friendly Business Network is to build partnerships and to demonstrate the value veterans have for NH’s workforce. “Veterans are not broken products,” Mikolaities said. “They are a valuable commodity.”
NH Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis, added, “When you employ a veteran you know you’re going to get a full day’s work. Our mission in New Hampshire has been to find workers and this has been harder than it was in 2014.” The Veteran-Friendly Business network is a “win-win” for everyone, Copadis said, citing the recruitment of veterans for jobs in NH, the high quality of service they bring to the workforce, and the 1% discount certified veteran-friendly businesses receive on their unemployment taxes that is made possible through the state’s unemployment trust fund.
Panels featured experts speaking on issues of mental health, housing, recovery, military cultural competency, professional licensure, military skills waivers, and resources.
Rob Dapice, executive director of the NH Housing Finance Authority, addressed the state’s housing crisis and explained why the shortage of affordable housing in the state affects veterans and contributes to workforce difficulties. “People say, ‘I believe you that there’s a housing problem and we should do something, but I like things the way they are,’” said Dapice, a former captain in the U.S. Army who served in Iraq. “If I hadn’t been able to find an affordable home 13 years ago in New Hampshire, I wouldn’t have been able to live and work here.”
Derick Sanders, corporate sales recruiter and trainer for Auto Fair Automotive Group, said many of the managers at his company are veterans. One of the challenges veterans face, Sanders said, is finding a sense of purpose following their military service. “There’s a consensus [at Auto Fair], we’re not just selling cars but we’re also offering veterans a sense of purpose,” Sanders said Sanders, who served in the Army 82nd Airborne has been with Auto Fair for 22 years. He pointed out that veterans make up about 25% of the company’s collision center and fill other roles throughout the company.
To be considered a certified Veteran-Friendly Business in NH, businesses must meet various criteria that includes demonstrating support for the military and veteran community, contributing annually to the veteran community through philanthropic efforts, and offering benefits to veteran who are employees to support continued military service.
The Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services was established legislatively in NH in 2019. The Department is led by Mikolaities and Warren Perry, deputy adjutant general. The Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services consolidated veteran services from across the state including the Division of Veterans Services, the Division of Community Based Military Programs and the State Veterans Cemetery.