The young veteran stood before the audience, explaining how he’d rebuilt his life after returning from far-away military service.
Sitting on a panel, in the front of the room, everything about the young man resonated with Patrick Sargent, Regions City President for Ft. Lauderdale and a speaker on a symposium on hiring veterans.
“His mannerisms, his personality, even his speech – it took me back 12 years,” Sargent said.
Twelve years ago, Sargent made a seamless transition from the military. A U.S. Army captain, he was hired by the Birmingham, Ala.-based bank to enter a management program.
He was a lucky one.
“I was very fortunate that when I transitioned out I landed at Regions,” Sargent said. “But a lot aren’t so fortunate, particularly the junior enlisted. I’m not sure the public understands the challenges veterans face. For many, it’s a very difficult transition (after serving in the military).”
The National Urban League recently held its annual conference in Ft. Lauderdale with the theme “Save Our Cities.” One of the outreach programs included the seminar, “We Want YOU: Hiring Our Heroes,” where business leaders shared strategies designed to help military veterans transition into civilian opportunities.
Hiring veterans as they transition from service is a priority for Regions, especially in South Florida. The bank has worked closely the past year with Mission United, A Broward County United Way agency that helps military veterans and their families re-acclimate to civilian life.
“Mission United and our partners have had a tremendous impact on veterans and their families in Broward County,” said Thomas Ellis, Senior Director of the agency. “This endeavor is so important to me personally because, as a veteran, I personally know the challenges of making that transition from military to civilian life, and I know that as a community, we can support those who need a hand up in making a successful transition.
“Regions has been a tremendous partner providing financial support to our programs, and through hiring veterans for career opportunities,” Ellis added. “It’s always wonderful to know that you have a corporate partner like Regions in your corner supporting you every step of the way.”
Sargent was asked to be a panelist for the hiring veterans symposium at the annual Urban League Conference.
Regions also participated in a career fair, where engagement with prospective future employees was brisk. But for many, hiring veterans is personal.
“We started our program in 2012,” said Maria Dume, the area HR manager for Regions in South Florida. “We’ve put our arms around the veterans and have helped many make the transition to the banking world. We’re looking for the right attitude, a willingness to learn and skill sets that transfer.”
By participating on the panel about hiring former military service members, Regions and other participating companies counted the positive reasons for hiring transitioning veterans, while shining the light on the work of Mission United.
In the eyes of Patrick Sargent, hiring veterans is an easy choice. “They bring discipline and consistency to the workplace, and they understand the process of being a successful team,” he said.
Throughout the week in Ft. Lauderdale, the National Urban League held seminars focused on education, jobs and improving opportunities in inner cities.
The young veteran who captured everyone’s attention during the symposium overcame homelessness with help from Mission United. He’s now gainfully employed at UPS.
For Sargent, that was just one success story. Bringing to light the success of hiring veterans may bring many more.
“This is just one more way we can contribute shared value,” Sargent said. “Just as the Urban League is focused on jobs, justice and fair housing, we’re looking at every way we can to improve our communities. And one way is to provide better opportunities for everyone.”