The Branstad Administration’s Home Base Iowa is helping military veterans find new jobs across the state. The program launched last May is adding both prospective employers and employees at a good pace.
Home Base Iowa is on a mission to provide educational and employment opportunities to veterans already here or because of the downsizing of the Department of Defense, those who may be considering Iowa as a place to live and work.
Veterans make up eight percent of the workforce at avionics giant Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids. Tim Carson manages Rockwell’s office of Diversity. He says most of the former soldiers have skills that can be applied elsewhere. He says “ for every position here in the company there’s an equal position in the military, so military bases and units should be viewed as small cities, so everything from a clerk to a CEO to a communications specialist to an engineer all of that talent is available inside the military.”
A perfect example is Rayce Evenson, originally from Minnesota who spent time working on helicopters in the Air Force before signing on at Rockwell. He says he welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback. He says “ you know as a technician in the Air Force you’re sort of the end user, you’re not the pilot who’s pressing the buttons or anything, but you’re replacing the equipment and making sure it’s working, so I think it’s pretty cool to be at this level of equipment I’ve used before.”
Many soldiers drive trucks and other vehicles when they’re deployed, that makes companies like TanTara Transportation Corporation in Muscatine a natural fit when they’re looking for work as civilians. Safety Director Dave Riggan says he’s proud that more than a third of TanTara’s truckers are veterans . He says ” we got involved right away, I guess as soon it showed up on our radar. We’ve got a pretty strong passion for veterans here at TanTara, we’re veteran owned. We’ve got 110 employees and 33 percent are veterans”.
Because Riggan is also a veteran he says he understands that it can be difficult to find a job when the applicant is not speaking the same language as the prospective employer. He admits” this is kind of a different world for someone who’s not a veteran and who’s not seen this language before on a resume. It really all kinda started making sense about Home Base Iowa they’re providing someone to translate them.”
And once they’re hired, Riggan says he believes veterans are a good investment because most have been trained to stay on task no matter what. He says” the military guys and gals have better customer service skills, they know how to smile and nod and get the job done and pull themselves back if someone is not being polite.”
TanTara and Rockwell Collins are both designated Home Base Iowa Businesses. Rockwell’s Tim Carson says along with employment, the companies make sure new hires are aware of all the other benefits that come with the program. He says “ we also use some of the other legislative benefits, whether is the tax incentives for pension or tuition assistance that’s very attractive to the veteran community.”
Since the plan was announced nine months ago, 600 businesses have signed on as Home Base Iowa companies . The number of jobs pledged is more than 95 hundred. The program is also reaching far beyond Iowa’s borders with new employees being reported in companies across the state from Minnesota, Missouri, Kentucky, Texas and Indiana.