Associated Press writer Josh Funk has written an article that veterans seeking employment should find interesting.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Mark Major once led a team of soldiers in combat in Iraq. Now he leads a team of railroad employees. The difference, he says, is obvious: “I’m not getting shot at anymore.”
But it’s the similarities between serving in the military and working for the railroad that draw Major and many other former military members to this type of work.
“For a veteran — a person who thrives off excitement, a mission and a chain of command — you tend to seek out companies like that,” said Major, who has worked for Union Pacific for about two years.
As thousands of American soldiers return to the civilian workforce after service in Iraq or Afghanistan, many are finding jobs on the nation’s rail lines. More than 25 percent of all U.S. railroad workers have served in the military.
Veterans have a long history of railroad work. Civil War veterans, for example, helped complete the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. But railroad opportunities are especially welcome now because the unemployment rate for recent veterans remains higher than for the rest of the nation.
Major helps manage intermodal freight trains for the railroad in Oakland, Calif. He sought out a railroad job when he was getting ready to leave the military because of the challenges and independence it offered and because he had known other soldiers who went to work for a railroad and liked it.
Railroad officials say veterans are well-suited to the work they do because of their training and the fact that they’re used to working a 24/7 job.
“Military folks adapt well to the railroad environment,” said Roy Schroer, Union Pacific’s vice president of human resources.
The railroad is like having a factory with no roof, Schroer said, so prospective employees who are trained to accomplish difficult tasks under fire are attractive.
Certain railroad jobs are almost perfect fits for certain military jobs, said John Wesley III, BNSF’s military hiring manager. For instance, someone who was an air traffic controller can become a train dispatcher rather easily. And mechanics who maintained diesel equipment in the military can use those skills to take care of locomotives.
Plus, skilled trades like plumbers and electricians are all needed in the railroads.
And even veterans who don’t have special skills are still a good fit because railroads are willing to train them to be conductors or to do other jobs.
“For the most part, if the military has it, so does the railroad,” said Wesley, who served in the Army himself for 22 years before joining BNSF in 2007.
Railroads pursue veterans by attending dozens of job fairs every year, employing recruiters who are veterans and offering classes for veterans to help them apply for civilian jobs.
Follow Josh Funk online at www.twitter.com/funkwrite
Go to www.TADPGS.com, click on the “Looking for People” tab, then view “Veterans Solutions” to see more for information on our Veterans Solutions for Employers. Please feel free to join our LinkedIn group, Veterans Hiring Solutions for Veterans and Companies at http://linkd.in/Sg346w. If you have specific questions about hiring veterans or the incentives for doing so, contact me at [email protected].