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Editorial: Hiring veterans will bolster rubber industry

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Rubber industry managers wring their hands over the lack of young talent entering the business. The problem has existed for decades and continues to grow.

Here's one solution: Hire a military veteran.

Cooper Standard Automotive Inc. recently announced it is doing just that, launching a program to provide career opportunities for military vets. It's a smart move, one some other rubber industry companies have embraced as an alternative to hand-wringing.

Hiring people is an educated guess. All the testing and vetting helps in choosing the right person, but ultimately you never know how an employee will perform over time.

Companies can hedge their bet by hiring a vet. These people have been trained in many aspects that are needed for success in the business world. They know the value of teamwork, self-discipline, the importance of objectives and how to meet them. They are experienced in following orders, and for many, in giving them as leaders.

Veterans understand the chain of command and how to operate within it. Additionally, today's U.S. military is a high-tech environment, and vets have that going for them.

I speak from some experience. The fact I was a Vietnam War era vet was a plus when I interviewed with Ernie Zielasko, who founded this publication. Ernie had served in Europe as an officer during World War II.

But I came from an era of draftees and an unpopular war. The people who comprise today's all-volunteer military mostly are there by choice and are motivated. As any manager knows, people who take ownership in their work do a better job than those who just punch the clock.

I hired a couple of vets in the past. Their strongest characteristics: Hard workers, highly productive, very self-disciplined.

Cooper Standard sees the value of hiring vets. Its Careers for Veterans project, which the company is promoting via a NASCAR program, signals the company actively is recruiting vets.

Goodyear is another rubber industry company with a “hire a vet” attitude. The company in 2012 committed to hiring 1,000 vets over a three-year period, and it sponsors an annual “Goodyear Gives Back” campaign that has generated more than $800,000 in donations for the Support Our Troops non-profit organization.

Actions like that put Goodyear at No. 81 in a ranking of 100 military-friendly employers last year by G.I. Jobs magazine. Eaton Corp. also made the list, at 43rd.

Goodyear rival Michelin also shows it values vets. Orion International, a recruiting firm that finds jobs for ex-military leaders, non-coms and technicians, cited Michelin's efforts to hire vets. Among the vets who work for Michelin North America is a former West Pointer and infantry officer named Pete Selleck. You may have heard of him; he's chairman and president of the company.

Noga is a contributing editor for RPN and its former editor. He can be reached at elnmails@yahoo.com.