With up to 250,000 active-duty service members transitioning each year to civilian life, the talent pool of skilled and dedicated workers is great. To capture some of that potential, New North, Inc. partnered with the organization Mission Wisconsin to help connect veterans with jobs at companies in Northeast Wisconsin’s 18-county region.
“If you ask employers, one of their single-biggest concerns is ‘How do I find more talent? Where does this skill come from?’” says Steve Janke, founder of Mission Wisconsin and a former U.S. Marine.
Mission Wisconsin, which started as a state program and is now a private firm, helps military families successfully transition to civilian life through one-on-one coaching and talent pipeline-building services for small- to medium-sized companies.
“New North recognizes that talent isn’t something you react to, it’s something you’re proactive about,” Janke says. “The partnership between New North and Mission Wisconsin allows the region to be proactive in attracting quality talent to the region.”
The result is New North Hires Heroes, a component of the organization’s larger “More YOU in NEW” campaign to attract talent to the region. The effort focuses not only on hiring but also on ensuring veterans build community ties and connect to the benefits and resources, which helps companies to improve retention, Janke says.
“I know that leaving the military is one of the most stressful times — not just leaving the military, but anytime you make a transition, workwise, it is a challenge,” Janke says. “There’s still the struggle of connecting with your tribe or your community, anywhere you go.”
The program enlists the help of community partners such as local chambers of commerce to help veterans get settled in the community, while also leveraging tools like the new Talent Hub launched last fall and marketing and collateral material that companies can co-brand, says Barb LaMue, president and CEO of New North.
LaMue watched Janke in action during visits to the Cherry Point and Camp Lejune Marine Corps bases in North Carolina in 2019, where he promoted Wisconsin as a state with strong educational and community support benefits for veterans.
“We know he’s going to be selling our 18 counties as a whole on every mission trip that he goes on,” LaMue says. “And then more specifically, speak to these smaller employers that are veteran-owned that will have positions that are immediately available.”
Rebecca Deschane, who joined New North in January as its vice president of talent development, says employers are always looking for talent not only with technical skills, but the all-important soft skills such as showing up on time, working as part of a team and having the ability to adapt and refocus.
“We know that those are skills that our veterans and members of the military learn throughout their time of service,” Deschane says.
At the same time, it can sometimes be a challenge to translate those military-learned skills into civilian terms appearing on job postings. “One of the great things about the partnership with Steve is really about helping the veterans and our military spouses better articulate what those skills are and how they apply in a civilian workforce,” Deschane says.
New North Hires Heroes also will help companies become veteran-ready and recognize that veterans have the skills and adaptability to learn quickly, even if their experiences don’t fit a job description perfectly, Deschane says.
One of the benefits of working with Mission Wisconsin is its presence at transition and career summits on military bases, putting the region in the spotlight as a top relocation option for veterans because of its strong support system and offerings.
“Steve is so charismatic in being able to sell the great state of Wisconsin that we continue to hear back from service members that we first met two years ago,” LaMue says. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, I’m just getting ready to leave the military, are you still doing this?’”