Posted on July 19, 2013

Alameda: Tony Earley Challenges Fellow Companies to Hire Military Veterans

By David Kligman

ALAMEDA — PG&E CEO and Chairman Tony Earley today (July 19) challenged fellow companies to recruit military veterans and take advantage of their unique skills.

PG&E’s Tony Earley meets transitioning naval officer Jim Ridgway at an event promoting the hiring of veterans. Earley called it a “critical national issue” that veterans struggle to find jobs when returning to civilian life. (Photos by David Kligman.)

Earley called it a “critical national issue” that those who have served their country struggle to find jobs after returning from active duty.

The PG&E leader spoke at a symposium — held at the U.S. Coast Guard Island Alameda — that the utility co-sponsored with the organization Hire America’s Heroes, its first California event. The nonprofit helps America’s major corporations recruit America’s military service members and veterans. About 1 million veterans are expected to return from service over the next five years.

“While many employers are addressing it, we’ve got to do more,” said Earley, himself a former Navy ensign. “Just as veterans have fulfilled their duty to our country, I believe as a veteran myself, that we have a duty and a great opportunity to recruit, retain and nurture this talent.”

The event included a tour of a Coast Guard cutter and demonstrations with a bomb-detection canine unit and emergency responders called the Pacific Strike Team. There also was a “reverse career fair,” tables of Coast Guard personnel divided by different skills to show companies how they might fit into a corporate workforce.

Many companies sent recruiting teams to the event, including Blue Shield, Chevron and Oracle.

A key message for participants: Hiring veterans helps veterans, companies and ultimately the American economy. As one veteran said, those who have served in the military are smart, loyal, team players who are conscientious about safety and devoted to excellence. In other words, an ideal fit for a company like PG&E.

Thousands of skilled craft utility workers needed

Earley pointed to PG&E’s own pressing workforce needs. More than a third of the utility’s employees will become eligible to retire in the next few years and thousands of new skilled craft workers are needed as the company ramps up its investment in its infrastructure.

Recruiters from large companies attended a symposium on hiring veterans and were given a tour of the Waesche, a cutter based at California Coast Guard Island Alameda.

Veterans already are proving to be excellent hires, said Earley, who recounted recent job interviews with former sharpshooters who questioned whether they had any transferrable skills.

“As we talked to them, we learned about their qualities of discipline and patience,” Earley said. “We learned about their abilities to concentrate, navigate and work together as a team. And we found that they can take a part and put back together nine types of weapons. Not all of your candidates for employment can say that.”

He said jobs like engineers, line workers, plant operators, security officers and technology specialists are ideally suited for careers in the utility industry because of the technical and leaderships skills honed in the military.

PG&E’s own PowerPathway program, begun in 2008 to better prepare job applicants for competitive but rewarding utility careers, includes a Bridge to Utility Worker for Veterans course designed especially for military veterans. PG&E also has joined several other energy companies on an initiative called Troops to Energy Jobs to better communicate career opportunities to veterans before and after they leave the military.

PG&E recognized as military-friendly employer

The company also is known as a military-friendly employer, has contributed more than $600,000 to community causes benefitting veterans and has a 400-member employee resource group dedicated to veteran issues. And earlier this year, First Lady Michelle Obama singled out PG&E for providing jobs and training for veterans. She said American companies have committed to hiring or training 435,000 men and women veterans over the next five years.

Coast Guard personnel demonstrate some of the tools for accessing vessels, including this saw that can be used to cut through metal doors.

At PG&E, about 1,200 of the utility’s more than 20,000 employees are veterans. Through a commitment to the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, the goal is to increase veteran hiring by 10 percent and train 250 veterans through 2013.

“Our nation’s veterans have done honorable work for the safety and prosperity of America,” Earley said. “Now they need the opportunity to show what they can do in the private sector.”

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Collins, the president and board chair for Hire America’s Heroes, praised PG&E for its involvement. In June, PG&E was invited to Seattle to share with utilities there how it has created a catalog that matches military duties with PG&E jobs.

Of PG&E’s support, Collins said: “It’s huge because PG&E is a very respected company in California and across the nation. It validates for others who are thinking of getting their feet wet and hiring veterans.”

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