It is hard to believe Where Opportunity Knox, a regional initiative to connect 10,000 transitioning veterans and military spouses to jobs and the Greater Louisville Region by the end of 2017, is celebrating its first anniversary in September.
In the last year, nearly 1,500 veterans and spouses have been connected with employment opportunities throughout the region and over 130 participating employers have signed up to support this initiative.
Flower Foods in Bardstown is one of 20 employers in the Lincoln Trail Region to join the initiative, realizing the value veterans bring to a workforce.
“All our technician positions are skilled positions,” Flower Foods’ Donna Hardesty said, noting employees have a high level of responsibility and that it takes several months to master each job in the completely automated bakery. “As a result, we can’t just call up the temp service when someone is absent. Veterans offer a dependable talent solution.”
Soft skills – including professional matters, strong work ethic and the ability to work well on a team – are critical to a competitive workforce and many employers have found veterans have those skills and more.
“One of the advantages of hiring veterans is the key assets they bring to the table, especially soft skills,” said Shana Seng of Monument Chemical Kentucky in Brandenburg, one of Where Opportunity Knox’s newest employer partners.
“We chose to participate in Where Opportunity Knox to gain further awareness of veteran skill sets, better understand how it transfers into our organization and increase our veteran outreach and hiring,” Seng said.
In addition to employers, over 30 Veteran Network Builders, business professionals who have volunteered to help veterans build their civilian networks, have been recruited and over 100 human resources professionals have attended Where Opportunity Knox’s quarterly briefings and tours at Fort Knox.
While our goal of 10,000 is still in the distance, we are confident we will achieve this because of our unique competitive advantage that no other region can leverage - our proximity to and partnership with Fort Knox. Approximately 100,000 soldiers transition from active duty service annually through the Army Transition Assistance Program, which is headquartered at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox.
With more than 3,000 of those transitioning soldiers being from Fort Knox, Greater Louisville's 26-county region has a unique economic development opportunity to tap into highly skilled veteran talent to meet the workforce needs of regional employers, while leveraging this proximity as a distinct competitive advantage for business retention, expansion and attraction.
It is important to recognize that Where Opportunity Knox is not a job placement service but instead is about developing a pipeline of transitioning veterans who are looking for a post-military place to live and work – a place that values veterans, offers a high-level quality of life and has a diverse and robust economy with available jobs and careers.
Through a network of Regional Veteran Connectors (RVCs) and a host of knowledgeable volunteers, Where Opportunity Knox is making the connections veterans need to find the right civilian job and the right civilian community.
This success wouldn’t be possible without strong partnerships throughout the region. Where Opportunity Knox is an initiative of the Kentucky Indiana Exchange (KIX), which is managed by the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, Greater Louisville, Inc. and One Southern Indiana. Our Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board, an investor of www.kix.com and the market research, veterans summit and other activities leading up to the creation of Where Opportunity Knox, is proud to be a part of this regional effort.
While numerous employers throughout the country have made the commitment to hire veterans, there is no geographic region that has taken on this challenge. And we are off to a strong start.
I invite you to join us. If you are a transitioning veteran, part of a company that wants to connect with these remarkable candidates or interested in helping veterans enhance their civilian networks, please visit Where Opportunity Knox.
Wendell Lawrence is Executive Director of the Lincoln Trail Area Development District and chairman of the Where Opportunity Knox Advisory Council. He can be reached at email@example.com or (270) 769-2393.