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5 Great Employers for Veterans

My older brother is a first lieutenant in the United States Marines Corps who has served two tours of duty in Iraq. I am truly grateful for the commitment and sacrifices that he and his fellow service members have made so that we may enjoy the countless freedoms provided by our great country.

On this Veterans Day, I'd like to in some small way serve them, by taking a look at five great companies for veterans seeking work after their service to our country.

While employment has been tough coming out of the Great Recession, the United States has sought to serve our veterans well, as historically they have had an unemployment rate lower than the national average, as shown in the chart below:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 

However, the situation is not as bright for those classified as Gulf War-era II veterans who have served in the armed forces since September 2001. Their unemployment rate is well above that of veterans from other service periods:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Many companies have recognized this trend and are putting mechanisms in place to narrow the gap. One of those is Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX  ) which just last week announced it would commit to hiring 10,000 veterans and their spouses over the next five years. CEO Howard Schultz said of the plan, "The more than one million transitioning U.S. veterans and almost one and half million military spouses -- with their diverse background and experience -- share our mission-driven sensibility and work ethic and can build long-term careers at Starbucks as they return home."

The multiyear plan will focus on career development by establishing the tools necessary to match the skills of veterans and their spouses with the needs of Starbucks to ensure that the new employees can succeed. In addition, the program will provide mentoring resources to the veterans to assist with the transition and "ensure new hires have access to the information and resources they need to be successful," according to a Starbucks press release.

There are a significant number of companies committed to hiring veterans, and through the Military Times' Best for Vets survey and the Victory Media Top 100 Military Friendly Employers, the Motley Fool has highlighted five of these organizations.

Union Pacific Railroad (NYSE: UNP  )
One out of every five of the 51,000 employees at Union Pacific Railroad has military experience. The company's board of directors includes retired Gen. Charles C. Krulak, who served as the 31st commandant of the Marine Corps between 1995 and 1999. The company also assists veterans through specific recruiting events, workshops, and even an online tool that helps "translate military skills, experience and training to find [Union Pacific] career opportunities." Union Pacific ranked second in the Military Friendly Employers survey and fifth in the Best for Vets.

Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ  )
Seven percent of Verizon employees are veterans, and with nearly 175,000 employees the company is one of the largest employers of former service members. Like Union Pacific, Verizon also offers a Military Skills Matcher and a tool that allows those seeking jobs to find them near where they are currently stationed. Verizon also helped create a mobile app that provides veterans and their spouses access to the tools provided by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes initiative. Verizon was ranked third by the Military Friendly Employers survey and sixth by Best for Vets.

ManTech International (NASDAQ: MANT  )
Although ManTech isn't a household name like the others on this list, almost half of its workforce has experience in the armed services. In addition, the company provides access to confidential resources and counseling for employees who are deployed and their spouses. The Fairvfax, Va., science and technology company ranked third in the Best for Vets survey and fifth in the Military Friendly Employers survey.

The financial services company dedicated to serving military members and their families is also committed to hiring veterans. The 25,000-person company has hired more than 7,300 veterans and their spouses since 2005. In a recent release, USAA's executive vice president of human resources, Dana Simmons, himself a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, noted that "for us, hiring veterans isn't an option, it is a critical necessity." The company has committed to 25% of its new hires being veterans or their spouses, and plans to increase that number to 30% in the coming years. It should come as no surprise that USAA was named as the No. 1 employer for veterans by both surveys.

General Electric (NYSE: GE  )
While there were certainly companies ranked ahead of General Electric on each list (it came in at 15th on the Best for Vets survey and 11th among the Military Friendly Employers), the company's size and scope perhaps offer the most expansive set of options for veterans as they transition into the civilian workforce. This includes potential employment across GE's health care, energy, finance, and industrial divisions.

Not only does General Electric provide an expansive network of veterans and a transition assistance program, but it also offers different insights to opportunities depending on the veteran's occupational specialty. It provides specific job opportunities through its Junior Officer Leadership Program for former military officers, and in 2009 "signed a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Army Reserve to guarantee priority consideration for job interviews for all qualified participating soldiers no later than 30 days after completing military occupational specialty training." 

Continued support of our veterans as they transition from the armed forces into the workforce is essential, and we would all do well to support them today and on all days.

From employment to investing
The Motley Fool has put together a our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," seeking to help both those in the military and those outside of it. Here The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

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