Last week, I had the honor of speaking at the fourth annual “Business Steps Up: Hiring Our Heroes Event” held at the United States Chamber of Commerce. The energy and excitement surrounding the hiring of our military veterans and spouses was amazing! People from all sectors of our society—from NGOs, government agencies, private businesses, and academia—are pledging their support to empower our veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment.
The event, which featured a keynote address by the First Lady, highlighted the positive steps we are making towards our goal of providing military families with the services and support they deserve. It brought together leaders from both the private and public sectors to recognize businesses that have gone above and beyond to employ talented military veterans and spouses. I am so pleased with the progress we have made. To date, the Hiring Our Heroes Program has connected more than 44,000 military veterans and spouses with more than 2,200 employers in 36 states, and more than 3,000 of those veterans and spouses have found employment.
In addition, the Military Spouse Employment Program (MSEP), which has reached 96 partners, has pledged to employ 20,000 military spouses by 2013. The International Franchise Association, a partnership that represents 1,000 business franchises, has committed to hiring 80,000 veterans by 2014! These are real numbers and real people that will be helped because of the joint efforts of so many. All of this grows out of a larger effort by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden through their work on the Joining Forces Initiative, which brings Americans together to recognize, honor, and take action to support military families.
These events and initiatives highlight the firm dedication and commitment within the DoD to join with others to help our military families find meaningful employment and get the support they deserve. The past few years have seen high unemployment rates and a tightening of fiscal policies and budgets across the country. But that does not mean that we need to go back to the old motto of doing more with less. The way forward, the best way to support our military families, involves doing better differently. We can achieve our goals, but we must look outward and change the way we think. We must customize our programs to meet the needs of our veterans, spouses, and service members so that they can compete in the 21st century.
We at DoD cannot do this alone. Nor should we. We must forge successful partnerships with businesses and people that bring new ideas, energy, and focus to our mission. We must work with employers, NGOs, communities, government agencies, and academia to tap into their ideas, talents, and resources, to mind share with them to get the best results for our military families. Tapping into this diversity of perspective and experience is critical, and together we can build the trust we need to best support our military families. We will do it with the same enthusiasm and courage our military families display every day.
And it’s working. The passion and excitement I saw at the Hiring Our Heroes event is another reminder that we are on the right track. Our mind share is growing by the day. New people and businesses from different sectors are joining together to share resources and ideas in support of our military families. If you have questions, comments, and suggestions for us as we move forward, please join our discussion. We need to hear from you to truly understand how these efforts are impacting your lives on a daily basis. I am thankful for and proud of these partnerships and of the opportunities they provide to help our military families thrive! Until next time, be well.