Witness Testimony of Timothy J. Carson, Manager, Veterans Initiatives, Office of Diversity, Rockwell Collins, Inc., Cedar Rapids, IA
As a global company pioneering innovative communication and aviation electronic solutions for both commercial and government/defense applications, Rockwell Collins is deeply invested in the well-being of military personnel, and that concern continues after their active duty is complete. The high rate of veteran unemployment—which is higher than the national average—demands private and public response.
In that spirit, Rockwell Collins pursues an aggressive veteran recruitment strategy internally, and works with a number of organizations externally to extend this approach to other employers across the nation.
The components of this strategy include:
- Support of organizations that advocate for employee rights and benefits during active service with the Guard and Reserve such as the Iowa Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (IESGR).
- Support of organizations offering legal assistance to service men and women before, during and after deployment.
- A full-time recruiter devoted to identifying and hiring military talent and advertising budget targeted toward veteran recruitment.
- Support and retention efforts such as Rockwell Collins’ Veterans Employee Network Group, corporate networking opportunities and special events, and collaborations with the Veterans Administration to ensure necessary supports and services are available.
- Working with suppliers that are veteran-owned and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
- Support for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Student Veterans of America’s jobs and internship program and “Hiring Our Heroes” initiative.
- Collaboration with the National Organization on Disability’s Wounded Warriors Program.
We hope the ideas embedded in this multi-pronged strategy contribute to the important national discussion surrounding this issue and help move businesses and policy makers closer to a strategy that reduces the veteran unemployment rate and helps veterans put the unique and desirable skills they developed to work for the well-being of themselves, their families and their future.
Thank you, Congressman Braley and Congressman Stutzman. My name is Tim Carson. I serve as a manager of veterans initiatives with the Office of Diversity at Rockwell Collins, a global aerospace and defense company headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In my position, I work closely with Rockwell Collins’ human resources organization and a variety of external partners to promote outreach to veterans and veterans organizations.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk to you today, and appreciate that you are taking time to listen to the perspectives of business and the community. It is particularly germane to this state, which has the one of the highest number per capita of reservists serving on active duty of any state in the union.
And on behalf of Rockwell Collins, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the invitation to speak about the importance of helping veterans secure meaningful employment.
The valuable service these men and women provide is undeniable. And so are the core skills they developed in the service—leadership, discipline, responsibility and technological savvy—that can be invaluable to civilian employers.
However, today more than 870,000 young veterans are unemployed—a rate higher than the national unemployment rate, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. And the wind-down of engagements abroad will lead to an additional million seeking civilian employment in the next five years.
When Rockwell Collins talks about these soldiers, we’re not just speaking about them as a simple subpopulation amongst all of today’s many unemployed. We’re talking about the people we serve.
They’ve relied upon our communication technology to stay connected with their leadership in harsh, remote settings around the globe. They’ve used our navigation systems to ensure the pinpoint accuracy of weapons systems in areas where civilians and combatants often live side by side. They’ve identified friend and foe with our helmet-mounted displays. And they’ve given us feedback, based upon their own experiences, to make these systems better for the next generation of warfighters.
We are grateful for their service, and are dedicated to helping them successfully transition from their military service and bring their skills and experiences to the civilian workforce.
To that end, Rockwell Collins has always prioritized the hiring and retention of veterans, and advocates that businesses across the state and nation do so as well. We also believe it’s important for us and other companies to partner with local and national organizations to ensure veterans receive the job counseling, training and guidance they need to secure and make the most of employment opportunities.
Today, I’m going to talk about some of the initiatives Rockwell Collins has pursued to build our veteran workforce, and the partnerships we maintain. These aren’t necessarily the only answer; in fact, I’m sure there isn’t one single answer to this challenge. But we recognize you’re seeking a breadth of ideas, and I think we have some good ones.
Internally, our company has practices and policies in place to ensure we attract and retain veterans and their spouses as employees.
Nearly 8 percent of our domestic workforce is made up of veterans, and at any given time a number of them are serving active duty through the Guard and Reserve. In fact, we are a strong advocate of the principles of the Iowa Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, or IESGR. The organization calls for companies to adhere to, and go beyond, the provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, including maintaining benefits, contributing to employee 401(k)s during military duty, and maintaining vacation accrual and raises. Because Rockwell Collins follows these guidelines and also promotes these principles to others in the community, we have earned a five-star rating from the IESGR.
We also recognize that legal issues can be a burden on Iowa’s service men and women before, during and after their deployment, and provide ongoing support of the Iowa Returning Veterans Project to provide them with free legal assistance.
Our human resources group has a full-time recruiter devoted to identifying and hiring military talent, and we allocate a specific and growing percentage of our annual recruitment/advertising budget to military outreach. Through these efforts, we have consistently grown our share of veterans as part of our total workforce, including a 4 percent increase in the past fiscal year.
But there’s more to go. Our leadership has identified the hiring of even more of yesterday’s warriors as a key business goal for FY’12, and we are launching an enterprise-wide strategy to increase our outreach, recruitment, hiring and retention efforts for veterans and veterans with disabilities.
Once hired, we further the well-being and retention of these individuals through a Veterans Employee Network Group, corporate networking opportunities and special engagements such as Transition Think Tanks and PTSD seminars. We collaborate with the Veterans Administration and other subject matter experts, to ensure that the necessary supports and services are made available and are accessible to our employees.
We also recognize the importance of supporting veterans through our business contracting with suppliers. Year to date, Rockwell Collins has spent $57 million—nearly 5 percent of total corporate spending with suppliers—with Veteran-Owned Small Businesses, and $13.6 million with Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses.
We are fortunate to have gained some recognition for these efforts. Rockwell Collins has been named a “Top 100 Military-Friendly Employer” by G.I. Jobs magazine for the past two years, and we strive every day to continue to deserve that recognition.
Beyond our own hiring practices, Rockwell Collins seeks to support initiatives that promote hiring of veterans across the nation.
We are a proud corporate sponsor of the Jobs and Internship Program, a partnership championed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Student Veterans of America (SVA). In fact, we recently made a significant contribution to the Chamber, specifically earmarked for their partnership with the SVA and development of the “Hiring Our Heroes” initiative.
We attended the SVA’s Leadership Summit and Career Fair this past summer in Madison, Wis., and will support the SVA’s National Conference this December as a corporate partner, exhibitor and employment panel participant.
In an initiative that is a personal passion for me, we also work to bring disabled veterans into the workplace, through a relationship with the National Organization on Disability, know as NOD, and its Wounded Warriors Program. As a primary sponsor of the organization, one of our senior executives sits on the board for NOD and is engaged in communicating core messages, events and opportunities for Rockwell Collins to both support and influence.
And we continue to seek additional relationships or opportunities to promote veteran hiring wherever we do business, and to talk about it at every opportunity, like we are today.
Now, there’s no single solution to the complex challenge of veteran unemployment, and it’s a pleasure to hear from the other participants today and get new ideas to consider.
But I hope my and Rockwell Collins’ contribution to the conversation is helpful as you consider the public and private strategies to tackle this issue.
These men and women willingly accepted one of our nation’s most vital and precious responsibilities, of protecting the country from harm. And in turn, we commit to fulfill our responsibility to help them put the unique and desirable skills they developed in that endeavor to work for the well-being of themselves, their families and their future.
I welcome any questions you may have today. I also encourage you to contact Rockwell Collins if you’d like to know more specifics about some of the initiatives I’ve outlined for you today.
Thank you again for your time and attention.
Response to House Rule XI clause 2(g)(5): Tim Carson did not receive any Federal grant or subgrants thereof during the current fiscal year or either of the two previous fiscal years.