Kim Taylor’s dream was to spend her life working in the U.S. Army. That career lasted only eight years before a medical issue forced her into military retirement. Today, Taylor is enrolled in the Northeastern University’s online MBA program, earning her degree with a concentration in finance and hospital administration. She hopes to start a non-profit to help veterans and share her story after graduation.
This summer, along with 14 other military veterans, Taylor is participating in the inaugural summer of the New York Stock Exchange Euronext Veteran Associate Program (VAP).
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University reported in June that of those veterans who have served since 2001, 12.7% were unemployed in May 2012, up from 9.2% in April. The youngest post-9/11 veterans continue to experience the highest unemployment; those 18-24 years of age are unemployed at a rate of 23.5% (compared to 15.2% for nonveterans), up from 18.6% in April 2012.
Startled by these numbers, CEO of New York Stock Exchange Euronext Duncan Niederauer went to his human resources department, looking to see if there was something the organization could do. VAP has been the answer to that question. Designed like a summer associate’s program that a college student would do on Wall Street, veterans enrolled in either undergraduate or master’s level programs can apply to the VAP like a traditional job. Veteran students are placed in paid eight-week internships in offices throughout the company, such as human resources, media and corporate relations, and legal and government compliance.
Before her service came to an abrupt end, Taylor was an Operations/Projects Manager, overseeing missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Her responsibilities included managing the shipment of critical supplies like food and ammunition from Germany to both Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served as a respiratory therapist.
While hospitalized, Taylor earned her bachelor’s degree online from American InterContinential University. After being placed on permanent disability, Taylor faced that she would have to take her military skills to the workforce.
“I had no idea where to begin,” said Taylor, who credits the organization “Be a Hero, Help a Hero” for introducing her to the NYSE program. During a resume seminar, Taylor was introduced to members of the NYSE’s HR department, who remembered her and encouraged her to apply. “VAP takes soldiers and puts them to work real world jobs and projects. It’s more than workshops and seminars. This program takes a vet and plugs them into the organization.”
From an Idea to Reality
Program initiator Lisa Dzintars-Pahwul, Managing Director, HR Business Partners, U.S. Human Resources, found overwhelming support for the VAP idea. Working with organizations like Iraq Veterans of America, Wall Street Warfighters, and schools like Columbia, Fordham, and New York University, Dzintars-Pahwul and her NYSE team spread the word about VAP. She received 80 applications for eight spots.
The inaugural cohort has 15 slots. Ed Hutner, Senior Vice President of U.S. Human Resources and Dzintars-Pahwul hope to keep at least that number open each summer for the VAP. The goal of the program is to first, provide work experience for these students and second, an educational experience, says Dzintars-Pahwul.
“VAP made me realize how much I want to help my fellow brothers and sisters,” said Taylor. “My MBA makes even more sense, and the fact that I can do it online, it’s a no-brainer.
“Like the military, with the NYSE, you hit the ground running. The pace is very fast – teaching, networking – and I’m utilizing my environment to the fullest degree. We’re around high-level executives and people that look at financial market and make the economy run, and it’s all financial information I can take back, especially in the non-profit sector.”
Both Dzintars-Pahwul and Hutner hope that the VAP becomes a template for their corporate peers and that they begin veteran programs of their own.
“There’s thousands of returning vets and a lot of companies don’t understand their skill set, and put them in a corner,” said Hutner. “For some of these veterans, they’ve been overseas for several years, but they are a crop of people with various backgrounds and they want to contribute.” Hutner adds that while veterans may not have the traditional skill set hiring managers are looking for, their leadership and discipline are things that can’t be taught and are valuable at all organizations.”
Due to her medical condition, Taylor had less time than a typical soldier to transition from military to civilian life, but she advises fellow veterans to give themselves time to prepare for the lifestyle change.
“Start networking. Go to resume writing workshops and interview how-tos. That really helped me out,” said Taylor. “I was in the military nearly 10 years, and I had to take the solider hat off. Soldiers don’t know how to do that.”
She recommends that soldiers start reaching out to local businesses back home, planning and saving money, and thinking about their interests.
“If you want to do in the civilian world what you’re doing in the military, begin researching that; don’t leave it until the last minute,” Taylor said.
“Learning how to re-enter the workforce or transitioning from military to work life is not easy,” added Dzintars-Pahwul. “They’re teaching all of us about what they did and we’re learning how great their contribution was to defending our country.”
–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets