Military Vets Bring Valuable Traits to Manufacturers

Disciplined. Resourceful. Goal-oriented. Those are only a few of the many traits military veterans possess that can help plumbing manufacturers succeed.

Another important reason for manufacturers to tap the military for talent? With a shortage of skilled workers projected to confront manufacturing companies in the next several years, the competition for skilled labor will increase. Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute have reported that between 2018 and 2028, manufacturers will need to fill more than 4.6 million jobs because of retirements and new jobs caused by natural growth.

Some PMI members, including Kohler Co., have created programs to recruit military veterans and, in turn, have realized the many benefits those workers bring to the manufacturing floor and beyond.

Versatile veterans perform well

Research has shown that military veterans perform well in a variety of roles and situations. They have been trained to deal with uncertainty and challenging conditions while being masters at goal-setting and problem-solving. A 2018 Orion Talent Veteran Hiring Survey identified some of the top reasons businesses hire veterans, including their excellent qualifications, composure, productivity, skills and leadership.

Veterans’ experiences sync well with the needs of plumbing manufacturers, too. “Almost every service member has obtained skills which make them valuable in the manufacturing environment,” said Adam Guenther, Leadership Talent Pool manager at Kohler and vice president of the Kohler Alliance for Veterans and Supporters (KAVS). He added that some military roles fit naturally into plumbing manufacturing. For example, naval machinist’s mates, who help operate and maintain Navy ships and submarines, and Seabees, who make up the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, offer valuable plumbing and engineering experience.

“Veterans bring so many positive qualities to their work. They are adept at working in teams, are among the most highly skilled individuals at their peer level, are trained leaders, are used to working hard and are dedicated to the collective cause,” Guenther stated.

Kohler created KAVS about two years ago, focusing on continued service to veterans and the community and how to create value for Kohler. KAVS’ emphasis on veteran recruiting has centered on educating the company’s human resources and hiring managers on the advantages and needs of veteran hiring; participating in hiring conferences; and partnering with National Veterans Transition Services, Inc., in its REBOOT initiative to help separating servicepeople adapt to the civilian world and find employment.

Connecting manufacturers with military talent

Many resources exist to help manufacturers recruit and hire military personnel. The Manufacturing Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) workforce and education partner, offers the Heroes MAKE America program, linking manufacturers with qualified candidates. The program also provides transitioning service members with manufacturing-related training and support, delivering a pipeline of prepared talent ready to hit the ground running.

A recent article on the NAM’s website discussed how manufacturing is an obvious choice for veterans and provided a first-hand account from a Heroes MAKE America program participant, Dan Mitchell. In the Army, Mitchell worked in maintenance at industrial facilities, managed safety and operations, and tracked heavy vehicles and armored units. He attributed the lessons he learned from his work in the Army as instrumental toward his success in his next career as a production supervisor in manufacturing.

Because of COVID-19, the Manufacturing Institute also recently launched Heroes Connect: Military to Manufacturing to replace in-person facility tours for Heroes MAKE America students. The program allows individual manufacturers to provide a company overview, information about their veteran-friendly culture, and a current list of career opportunities. Manufacturers also can conduct video conversations with participants. Plumbing manufacturers can sign up for the program on the institute’s website.

Other resources for businesses looking to recruit military veterans include the Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) and; the Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative; and’s veteran hiring employer resource center.