Generating career options for veterans

Ameren hosts jobs conference for members of military community

Shams Chughtai, left, state veterans coordinator with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, discusses specialized degree programs with Tina Balser, recruitment coordinator with the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering.

Shams Chughtai, left, state veterans coordinator with the Missouri Division of Workforce Development, discusses specialized degree programs with Tina Balser, recruitment coordinator with the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering. Jeremy P. Amick

As the economic pendulum swings an arc of uncertainty, many corporations have tightened purse strings and eased up on hiring new employees. However, current economic forecasts notwithstanding, Ameren Corporation is seeking out ways in which to reach out to an untapped talent pool — the military community — in order to fill existing and forecasted energy sector vacancies.

“We are expecting a 50 to 60 percent turnover of our workforce over the next 10 years,” said Krista Bauer, manager of compensation and talent acquisition with Ameren’s St. Louis office.

In an effort to identify resources from which military and veteran candidates can be drawn to create a “talent pipeline” for the company, Ameren recently brought together representatives from several military, veteran and community organizations for a one-day conference at its St. Louis headquarters.

Several backgrounds were represented at the conference, ranging from the United States Coast Guard, Missouri Division of Workforce Development and the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service to the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering and Missouri’s Show-Me Heroes program.

Initial discussions centered on how to best access the highly sought-after veteran candidate pool.

“In our industry,” Bauer continued, “we tend not to hire so many entry-level jobs, but those with experience. The experience gained in the military can be a real good feeder for some of the jobs we need to fill.”

But in spite of the high levels of experience many veterans have gained during their service, there often exists a gap when attempting to translate their experience into terms and concepts that can be comprehended and used by a civilian sector employer.

During a breakout session, discussion turned briefly toward the certifications that are currently available through the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training. Suggestions indicated that these certifications could be used to better highlight and explain the technical skills acquired by a veteran throughout his or her military service.

Chad Schatz, director of the veterans education and training section with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, briefly discussed how many veterans could use their GI Bill benefits in an apprenticeship and on-job training program by certifying many of the positions Ameren currently has vacant.

Nevertheless, with all of the experience gained in the military, there still remains a certification and education requirement for many of the vacancies within the energy sector. To address this gap, Ameren has begun working with many universities and colleges to develop energy-focused degree and certification programs.

“If we can establish an interest among the veterans population prior to one’s discharge from the military, an education pathway can be developed to ensure that the individual possesses both the education and experience necessary to compete for high-paying jobs with companies such as Ameren,” said Shams Chughtai, state veterans coordinator with the Division of Workforce Development.

Additionally, although Ameren is currently seeking ways in which to help qualify veterans for good paying positions within the company, it currently has a significant amount of veteran experience in the workforce.

“Ten percent of our current workforce is self-identified veterans,” said Betsy Finnegan, supervisor of workforce planning and development. “Last year, five percent of our new hires were also self-identified veterans.”

According to Don Koonce, workweek supervisor at Ameren’s Callaway Nuclear Plant and a veteran himself, the company has always been military-friendly. “We (the Callaway location) have the highest density of veterans of any single location within Ameren,” Koonce said.

Closing out the conference, Matthew Arri, a senior recruiter with Ameren, advised the participants to have job-seeking veterans they visit with to check Ameren’s developing military web page. “This page is dedicated for military recruitment and explains how the hiring process may differ for someone who is currently active in the military as opposed to someone already out in the civilian world.”

For more information on Ameren careers for veterans and transitioning military personnel, visit the company’s military webpage at www.ameren.com/Careers/Pages/Military/Veteran.aspx.

Jeremy Amick served in the military for 11 years, is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans, and public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

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