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Working in the big league

Graduation ceremony honors 33 veterans who interned at signature companies like Microsoft and Starbucks

Area servicemembers complete their internships with corporate giants. Photo courtesy Shellie Willis from Camo2Commerce

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They show up on time, follow orders, work well in a team and know how to manage resources. It goes without saying they know how to deal with stressful, high-pressure situations. Veterans are ideal employees, but finding ideal employment can be difficult.

Last Thursday, Hiring our Heroes and Camo2Commerce hosted a graduation ceremony at the Amazon Doppler in Seattle for 33 veterans who had completed the Corporate Fellowship Program. Started in 2014, this 12-week program allows graduates to transition directly from military service to management-level positions by fellowshipping with one of the program's corporate partners, which include major companies such as Alaska Airlines, Comcast, Microsoft, Starbucks and the event's host, Amazon.

Since 2011, Hiring our Heroes has helped hundreds of thousands of veterans and their spouses transition to rewarding careers in the civilian labor market throughout the country. Locally, this division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce collaborates with Camo2Commerce - a project of Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council in collaboration with the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce - to provide work opportunities and career development resources for servicemembers transitioning out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord into civilian life in and around western Washington.

"There wasn't a program that existed to serve transitioning military members at a level commensurate with their education and experience level," said Rob Comer, Training and Education Coordinator for Camo2Commerce. "Right now, the Fellowship is averaging an over ninety-two percent placement rate into corporate management jobs and an average salary of about $75,000," he added.

Since starting in 2014, over 80% of the program's graduates - both officer and enlisted ranks - found full-time positions, and 150 gained employment with average salaries in the $70,000 range, and it's a relief for many local veterans.

"I was scared and nervous trying to figure out, after serving three years in the military, what I'd do afterward. Fortunately, I was able to participate in the Fellowship Program," said Ashley Hence, a former "Fellow" currently employed with Alaska Airlines. "It was a rollercoaster ride, but a fun one."

It isn't just a charity cause or public relations gimmick on the part of the hiring companies, either. Each of the Fellowship Program's corporate affiliates fully recognizes that our veterans are a valuable resource of largely untapped potential that they gain increased access to in their partnership with Camo2Commerce.

"(We're) proud to be a part of the Camo2Commerce program. Veterans transitioning out of the military come to us with extensive leadership experience that can be leveraged to help us achieve our company's mission," said Afsheen Saatchi, a corporate recruiter for Starbucks.

In addition to its Fellowship Program, Camo2Commerce provides other services to help our veterans transition to high-demand employment opportunities in the civilian workforce, including one-on-one career coaching, job placement, training, job fairs and more. Hiring Our Heroes has hosted over 1,000 job fairs in the United States, its surrounding territories and at military bases abroad. Their Hiring 500,000 Heroes initiative has provided gainful employment for well over 500,000 heroes.

For more information on Camo2Commerce and the Fellowship Program, please visit camo2commerce.com.

For more information on Hiring Our Heroes, please visit uschamberfoundation.org/hiring-our-heroes.

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