Col. Jason Kirk briefs Ernesto Irizarry, mayor of the Puerto Rican city of Utuado, right, and Carlos Torres, Edison Electric Institute's Power Restoration Coordinator, left, during recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria. Kirk, who led the Army Corps of Engineers in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, is now Director of Business Development for Haskell’s Aviation & Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Division.

April 28, 2021

Military Veterans Provide a Vital Source of Talent for Haskell’s Fast-Growing Workforce

“A military veteran brings a lot to the table, and it's nice to see a company that recognizes that and really looks for that in an employee.”

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Military veterans face numerous challenges as they re-enter civilian life, chief among them entering the civilian workforce. Creating a resume and preparing for interviews can be daunting, but more than that, military work experience doesn’t always translate directly to the requirements of a civilian career.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 180,000 service members transition to civilian life each year. These veterans have many attributes that make them valuable to civilian employers, and Haskell works with veterans’ organizations to hire individuals who can contribute to its growing workforce.

“Veterans might not know all the ins and outs of the architecture, engineering and construction industry, but we can teach those pieces,” said Deidre Brearley, a University Relations Specialist who began recruiting veterans for Haskell several years ago. “Veterans bring leadership. They bring organizational skills. They bring communication skills. They're used to collaborating and working on teams. These team members have proven that they can do a great job. This is a talent pool we need to continue tapping because it's working.”

Ryan Hollister, Director of Haskell’s Manufacturing Core, joined the U.S. Navy after high school as a rescue swimmer. After a career that took him to Europe and South America, he used the GI Bill to earn his bachelor’s in industrial technology and joined Haskell’s Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Group. A desire to volunteer prompted him to begin conducting mock interviews with Operation New Uniform, a Jacksonville, Florida-based organization that supports veterans as they transition into their post-military careers. He sits now on the organization’s board of directors.

From left, retired Sgt. Maj. Eric Ford, a former Haskell Project Manager; Navy veteran Ryan Hollister, now Director of Haskell’s Manufacturing Core; Operation New Uniform Executive Director Michele McManamon; and Marine veteran James Jackson, a former Haskell Assistant Project Manager, are pictured as Hollister presents Haskell’s donation to the organization after its 2018 graduation ceremony.

“It just resonated with me,” Hollister said. “The mission of Operation New Uniform is to help find the next career, and for some folks, that's a challenge. The placement staff asks, ‘What are you looking for? What are you interested in?’ People have some kind of abstract, vague answers for that, and the organization helps them tailor what they really like into a career.”

Dave Balz, Vice President of Workforce Development, added, “It's up to us to ensure that the veterans are provided a clear understanding of the opportunities and expectations for new team members during the interview process. It is also important that we assess their key competencies. We can then create a plan to supplement their current skills and abilities to grow in our organization. The veterans who I have worked with during their transition from military service to civilian career have been highly engaged and quick to build their knowledge of our business.They have a high desire to demonstrate their civilian career is something that they can do well.”

Design-Build a Good Fit

In other cases, Corps of Engineers veterans find Haskell’s signature design-build project delivery method a close analog to their military duties.

“Haskell does lifecycle delivery for clients similar to the Corps of Engineers, so we do the front-end planning with creative design,” said Jason Kirk, Director of Business Development in the Aviation & Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Division. “We engineer the technical specifications, and then we put on our hard hats and steel-toe boots and we construct all the way to delivery for the client. For the Army Corps, the projects I was involved in are somewhat similar to Haskell.”

Haskell currently employs more than 80 veterans whose military tenures ran from a couple of years to more than 25 years. They have served in all branches of the military, and several have attended military academies. Regardless of their path to Haskell, they all have a common set of skills that benefits their company, teammates and clients.

Kirk is a West Point graduate who served in the Corps of Engineers for more than 25 years. He said Haskell’s values are closely aligned with those of the military.

“Besides the integrated collaborative approach to work and Haskell's core values of team, excellence, service, and trust, the No. 1 thing that that drew me to this team was the high-integrity approach to everything,” Kirk said. “That's what I held true every day in the military. I saw that to be the expectation in the way that Haskell works. Being able to apply my sense of operating in a high-integrity environment with engaged leaders is what I saw in Haskell.”

He retired from the Army as a Colonel with responsibility for leading the Corps of Engineers in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, which included coordinating emergency hurricane responses. But Haskell has found that veterans at all levels bring with them deep leadership skills.

Brooke Jones-Chinetti, Haskell’s Director of Learning and Team Member Engagement and a West Point graduate, is pictured during a deployment to Iraq.

“Military veterans not only are excellent team members, but they’re great leaders because no matter what you did in the military, you led something,” said West Point graduate Brooke Jones-Chinetti, who is Haskell’s Director of Learning and Team Member Engagement. “From a private all the way up to a general officer, you led something. That experience is a thread that runs through the entire veteran community.”

Sense of Teamwork Translates

Michael McLauchlan, Director of Technical Training, served in the Navy for 29 years and was a Command Master Chief. He has found the leadership skills he gained in the Navy helpful in his position at Haskell.

“One of the things with the military is how they develop their people. I learned a lot of the lessons of leadership from my entry-level bid all the way up to that command level, so I tried to bring a little bit of that with me to Haskell. When you're in that Chief, Senior Chief or Master Chief role in the Navy, it’s all about your team success. If you're successful, it's all about your team, and I've really brought that with me.”

Michael McLauchlan, Director of Technical Training, served in the Navy for 29 years and retired as a Command Master Chief.

Teamwork is one of Haskell’s core values. Veterans’ ability to work well with varied and diverse teams has been a perfect fit, whether they’re working as engineers, craft trades, or corporate positions.

Haskell recognizes other unique educational and leadership characteristics learned by team members who served in the military. For example, within six months of graduating from West Point, Jones-Chinetti was a human resources officer for 2,500 people in Iraq spread across 47 sites.

“The military puts you on an expedited timeline, so you’re learning lessons at 22 years old that you might otherwise learn later in your career, just because of the amount of responsibility you are given so early and the type of environment you're in,” Jones-Chinetti said. “You learn those lessons fast; you learn what works, and you learn from great leaders.”

Senior Corporate Recruiter Aaron Simpson served as a Marine and is shown during a deployment to Iraq in 2004.

Senior Corporate Recruiter Aaron Simpson served as a Marine, deploying to Iraq in the early 2000s. In his current position as a recruiter for Haskell, he sees veterans as bringing soft skills that can be difficult to teach.

“Veterans have to do a lot more with less than their civilian counterparts, but they have to be able to adapt,” Simpson said. “They have to be able to improvise, adapt, and overcome. They have creative thinking and a work ethic. There's a lot of creative problem-solving.”

In addition, veterans offer their teammates unique insight into the needs of their clients, especially in the federal and military sectors.

“The people who come in from the military have a tremendous opportunity give us strategic input regardless of what their job is in our company,” Balz said. “Getting that institutional knowledge to support efforts to build our relationships with federal agencies, and with military in particular, is hugely valuable when asking them to sit in on a proposal strategy.”

As Haskell continues to grow, service members transitioning back to civilian life will remain a valuable talent pool for future team members.

“Military folks deploy for six months, sometimes even a year or more away from family and friends, and sometimes I think that gets forgotten,” McLauchlan said. “It's not on purpose; it's not malicious. It doesn't resonate with people that this person dedicated that much to be able to serve their country. I think it’s really cool how Haskell embraces the veteran community. A military veteran, especially one looking for employment, brings a lot to the table, and it's nice to see a company that recognizes that and really looks for that in an employee.”

Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 1,800 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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