Jason Kamiya of USAA addressed the general session of The American Legion's 96th National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Photo by Lucas Carter)

Hire them, develop them, connect them

USAA Senior Vice President Jason Kamiya offers a three-step formula for companies interested in hiring some of the 1.5 million men and women expected to leave military service in the coming five years. “Hire them. Connect them. Develop them.”

A retired U.S. Army major general, Kamiya spoke before thousands of veterans gathered in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday for the 96th Annual National Convention of The American Legion.

To Kamiya, the formula has a personal connection. His father, a Japanese-American immigrant who was wounded fighting for the United States during World War II, came home to limited opportunities.

“After being medically discharged, my father worked as a busboy to save enough money to go to business school,” Kamiya said. “First, though, he had to get in.” The USAA executive explained that his father spent three days pacing in front of a business school until he got up the nerve to submit his application. That was the first step in a journey that led to a successful 30-year career in insurance and investment management.

“He later admitted he could have used some help and support making the career transition,” Kamiya said. “Like hundreds of thousands of today’s transitioning veterans.”

USAA, The American Legion’s preferred provider of financial services, has hired more than 8,700 veterans since 2006, Kamiya said. USAA also makes a point to do business with veteran-owned companies and those that have strong veteran-hiring practices.

Once hired, veteran employees need connections, he explained. USAA has an effective network of veteran mentors “…a community called VetNet where veterans can find mentors, connect socially to other veterans and tap into professional development opportunities.”

To illustrate the third plank in USAA’s veteran-hiring platform, Kamiya shared the story of 15-year Army veteran Joey Brand, an ammunition specialist who “didn’t know a thing about computer programming.” Brand used USAA’s VetFit program, which provided him 12 weeks of free training among other veterans. There were moments of uncertainty for the young veteran learning new career skills, and the USAA network kept him motivated. “With help of his support network, Joey finished his training and began his paid internship. Last month, Joey became a full-time programmer at USAA.”

Kamiya suggested that employers visit the Employer Roadmap – www.employerroadmap.org – for more information. The site is a collaboration between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes program and USAA.