Creative Ways to Recruit Veterans to Your Workforce Part 3: Management Trainee Programs

In this series of blogs I am exploring some creative ways for employers to “test drive” veterans before hiring military and for veterans to explore civilian careers.  The first blog addressed internships.  The second blog covered on-the-job-training programs. This blog reviews Management Trainee Programs.

If you are not familiar with management trainee programs (MTPs), most follow a basic structure.  Selected candidates undergo:

  • An orientation to the company usually lasting 1-2 weeks.
  • Rotational exposure over the course of several months to a variety of jobs within a business unit or among different business units within a company.
  • Hands-on work / job shadowing of a narrower selection of positions within a business unit or among a handful of different business units within a company, lasting several more months.
  • Selection to work in a specific entry-level management job in a specific business unit.  This first assignment may be as a permanent hire or as a probationary hire.

The program may also involve classroom training, depending on company requirements and the nature of the work.  During the trainee period the candidate is continuously assessed and evaluated on his/her “fit” for the various jobs and the business units.  The candidate is encouraged to express their opinion on the type of work they found most interesting and the business unit where they felt most engaged.  Ideally, by the end of the process the candidate knows the type of position where they would be the strongest and the hiring manager for their favored business unit is confident the candidate will be a good addition to the team.

Management trainee programs are offered by many leading companies in a variety of industries:

These programs are typically marketed to recent college graduates or those just about to graduate.  Oftentimes the company’s career web page has announcements of when campus visits will occur and encourages students to contact their university career centers to apply.  Some companies don’t advertise these opportunities on their web sites, simply relying on campus visits to get the word out.

What I would like to see happen in 2010 (and beyond) is more employers making an effort to recruit transitioning military service members, particularly those who are mid-level non-commissioned officers (NCOs – grade E-5 through E-7) and junior-level military officers (JMOs – grade O-1 through O-3), to apply for these programs.  I’d like to see more of these companies visiting the military transition centers and attending military job fairs in an effort to reach out to veterans and to encourage them to apply.

Think about it – veterans already have a great deal of supervisory and managerial experience:

  • How many 21-year old college seniors can say they have led a team of nine workers (or more) to accomplish any significant task?  How many of them have been doing it for years and under incredibly challenging situations in austere environments?
  • How many young adults have had personal and financial accountability for the people and equipment for which they were responsible?  Few civilians have experienced a report-of-survey and had their pay docked because company equipment was damaged or lost.  Few students have undergone something akin to the scrutiny of an Article 15-6 investigation or a Line-Of-Duty investigation because two of their employees were in an altercation in their living quarters.
  • How many students have written performance reviews or coached employees for a promotion?
  • How many 20-somethings have developed unit/team training plans and assessed others on the level of knowledge attained?

NCOs and JMOs, who are typically between the ages of 22 and 30, can say they have done all of that and more.

Military service members also have real-world experience in many industries.  Over 80% of the jobs in the military have a civilian equivalent.  There are veterans with extensive backgrounds in healthcare, logistics, transportation, IT, law enforcement/security, emergency management, project management, engineering, intelligence and human resources, to name just a few industries and fields. The area a service member will have the least hands-on familiarity with is in the actual business aspects – how this company makes/saves money – since that is one thing a veteran rarely had to be concerned with in his military job.  However, I suspect business aspects would need to be emphasized with the college students as well, so I still believe the veteran would be the stronger candidate.

Yes, companies could be attracting great candidates with supervisory/managerial experience and real-world industry experience versus candidates with little to no supervisory/managerial experience and primarily book-knowledge.  So – why don’t companies market these training programs to veterans? Most companies focus on college students because they don’t realize there is another resource of young talent with industry knowledge.  Most employers are unaware of the breadth and depth of experience our military men and women have.

If your company has a management trainee program that is not currently being marketed to veterans I encourage you to consider adding military hiring to your recruiting strategy.  If you need more information on where to find veterans or how to market to veterans I invite you to register to attend one of my web seminars on these military hiring topics.

I also recommend those employers with existing MTPs consider their choice of career site language.  Phrases like “offers recent college graduates”, and “use your degree” discourages non-commissioned officers who have not completed a degree from applying.  Unless there is a strong reason why a college degree is required (versus desired), employers are encouraged to also accept applicants with relevant experience.

Here are some examples of great organizations that do make the effort to market to military and recruit military into their management trainee programs:

  1. General Electric’s Junior Officer Leadership Program, commonly known as JOLP.
  2. The US Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) agency.
  3. Con-Way