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Witness Testimony of Mr. Jay Hawkins, Vice President for Human Resources, Chesapeake Energy Co.

Chairman Flores and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity today to discuss Chesapeake Energy Corporation’s veterans’ hiring program, which has become a remarkable success story for our company. I am Jay Hawkins, vice president of Human Resources for Chesapeake Energy Corporation.

Chesapeake is based in Oklahoma City and is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas and the 11th largest producer of oil and natural gas liquids. We are proud to have helped lead the way in what has become known as the oil-and-gas shale revolution. This domestic supply revolution has taken place across the U.S., creating jobs, generating significant economic activity and changing our nation’s energy future. This includes reducing our dependence on foreign oil and helping offer energy solutions for some of our allies around the world.

I am here today because, as a part of our success in recent years, our company is also a top employer of veterans, as well as members of the Reserve and Guard. I am honored to say these employees represent about 11% of our total employee base. This is especially significant as this hiring has occurred during a recessionary period when many tens of thousands of veterans were returning home seeking employment. Of note, the average annual salary of these veterans at Chesapeake is $61,500.  

Our efforts to recruit military servicemen and servicewomen began in 2008. But what originally started as a small component of our recruiting efforts quickly grew into an organic success.

Our targeted recruiting outreach has resulted in the current employment of about 1,200 veterans  or members of the Guard or Reserve in positions ranging from rig hands to engineers. In fact, of the nearly 3,000 employees hired by Chesapeake in 2013, about 200 were members of the Guard or Reserve and about 230 were veterans.

Initially, Chesapeake recruited only junior military officers, lieutenants and captains retiring from service for specialized positions. But we quickly expanded efforts to include hiring former enlisted personnel to work in the field, realizing these men and women could be a natural fit. For instance, many maintenance and electronic technicians were trained in the military, and we are able to naturally transition their experience to the oil-and-gas industry.

Our specific recruitment efforts include participation in veterans recruiting fairs – Chesapeake attended about 50 in 2013 – and a veterans-only e-mail address where military candidates can contact our recruiters directly. In total, fifteen percent of our 2013 recruiting budget was dedicated to recruiting veterans.

The result of the continued success of our program is that today we plan to add military veterans in locations across the country, including Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania and Louisiana in positions like field engineers, Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) representatives, pumpers, equipment operators, business analysts and rig hands. 

Once hired, Chesapeake works hard to help our veteran employees during their transition. In 2011, we created “CHK Troop Connect”, an online community where employees with military affiliation and their families can connect and support each other as they transition to civilian life and begin new careers. “CHK Troop Connect” offers Guard/Reserve/veteran employees and employees with military family members opportunities to connect with each other, plan activities and share stories. This group hosts networking events, community-service projects, welcome-home and farewell gatherings and other military-focused activities. We understand this support and continued transition assistance is vital.

Moreover, just this month, we were pleased to announce a new Military Differential Pay Benefit for all full-time Chesapeake employees who have completed at least one year of employment and are called to active duty or military training for 30 or more days. Under this benefit, our company will pay the difference between an eligible employee’s Chesapeake salary and his/her military pay as a lump sum amount upon return to work. 

While we know that veterans have an unmatched work ethic, commitment to team work and leadership skills, we now directly benefit from these skills and contributions on a daily basis. As our CEO said to our employees on Veterans’ Day 2013 – when senior management and supervisors also presented each service member with a commemorative coin in individual ceremonies – “these individuals provide strength, stability and commitment to our company, in addition to the diverse skills and expertise that are essential to our success.”

Mr. Chairman, you have certainly seen the economic and job-creation results first-hand in your home state of Texas; and as a number of members of this subcommittee have seen in your own states, the timing of the growth of our industry has made this particularly great news. Unlike most industries, the oil-and-gas industry has experienced growth during a recessionary period, and the outlook for jobs only looks brighter in the future.

We are proud that Chesapeake has been honored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as one of the top 25 American companies to hire veterans and named a's Most Valuable Employer for Military, as well as a G.I. Jobs Top 100 Military Friendly Employer® for five consecutive years. We were also a finalist for the Post-9/11 Veteran Employment and Internship Award and a member of First Lady Michelle Obama's Joining Forces Initiative. 

In summary, our veterans’ hiring efforts have truly proven to be a win-win for our company and for the many men and women of our armed forces who have now found exciting and rewarding new careers with Chesapeake. We are proud that this program provides a solution for our needs, as well as our returning veterans’ employment needs – all while continuing to advance what has become one of our nation’s greatest stories, the oil-and-gas shale revolution.   

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to be here with you today. I look forward to answering any questions.