Military Approach

Manufacturers enlist the U.S. Army to recruit skilled workers.

Manufacturers are joining the U.S. Army in a new effort to recruit employees. General Dynamics Land Systems Inc., Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and Deere and Co. are among the first major manufacturing firms to sign up with the Army's Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) program. Hatched by the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Ky., the PaYS program is designed to make military service more appealing to recruits by offering potential job opportunities upon their discharge, says Col. Robert A. Qualls, PaYS program manager. For companies, it provides a new resource for finding needed employees. Launched last fall, the PaYS program had attracted approximately 1,000 recruits as of mid-June. (The Army recruits about 79,000 men and women annually.) Twelve companies, all with a national presence, have enrolled in the PaYS program. Future plans are to expand the PaYS program to the U.S. Army Reserves to encourage local or regional company participation in the program. Manufacturing executives say they are optimistic about the program's potential as another avenue to find new employees. "There are a lot of people on the cusp of retirement, and with relatively low unemployment we've got to take aggressive steps to recruit. I think PaYS is one of the ways to do that," says Steve Wohlwend, a senior manager of industrial relations at Deere and Co., Moline, Ill. "I think it pro-vides a lot of opportunity for Deere." Military tank manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems, Sterling Heights, Mich., was the first company to join PaYS. It already has signed four prospective employees. "You get a solid individual who's been trained and can hit the ground running," says Rick Reichenbach, director of personnel planning and integration at General Dynamics Land Systems. The biggest challenge, Reichenbach says, is projecting the company's future employment needs. The average recruit stays in the Army for about 3.5 years. Enrolled companies submit job descriptions and qualifications to the Army, which feeds that information into the PaYS computer system. Based on the results of their physical and aptitude tests, recruits are assigned a military job or military occupational specialty (MOS), which is matched against the database of job descriptions provided by the enrolled companies. If a match is made the recruit is notified that a company potentially would be interested in hiring him or her upon honorable discharge from the service. A recruit who expresses an interest then signs a nonbinding letter of intent, which is sent to the interested company. While the company is obligated to provide the recruit with priority consideration for employment after he or she is discharged, it is not required to hire. Likewise, the recruit is not required to work for the company. Additionally, it is the company's responsibility to maintain contact with the Army recruits. Among the military jobs listed on the PaYS Web site, www.armypays.com, are machinist, metal worker, pipe-fitter, electrical technician, engineer technician, machinery-maintenance mechanic, computer analyst, computer-equipment operator, and warehouse manager. "The kinds of jobs we're looking to fill would be either factory-level jobs or positions in our U.S. retail network of about 800 stores," says W. James Fish, senior vice president of global human resources at Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear. "We were down in Fort Knox to take a look at the training they do, and we were particularly looking at some of the mechanical training they do -- such as teaching recruits how to repair tanks and guidance systems. Well, that's not the same as manufacturing a tire, but it moves in the same direction." Adds Fish: "Young men and women coming out of the service show a level of discipline, leadership, and intelligence. We're interested in those kinds of people for production jobs." There is no charge for companies to be part of the PaYS program. However, participants can expect to dedicate time to administering the program, including such efforts as updating job listings, working with Army officials, and maintaining communication with the recruits.

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