TULSA, Okla. — Servicemen and women make an oath to our country.
Giving years of their lives to protect family, friends, and complete strangers— there is no question the armed forces train them relentlessly, giving them the skills necessary to succeed.
Those very same skills and experiences may, or may not come in handy in civilian life. Even if they do, the transition can be daunting. That's where organizations like Tulsa's Coffee Bunker come in.
The Bunker's goal is to support veterans while helping them transition from service to civilian life, and its been doing that since September 2010.
The organization is taking it a step further with a new program called Employer Alliance. The idea is to form partnerships to connect military members, both those still in service and those who are now civilians, with relevant and meaningful employment opportunities.
Not just getting the job, but going above and beyond to make sure they’re successful in those roles.
“The Bunker is facilitating this relationship between the veterans and the employers, especially on the part of what employers can do, to step up a little bit more, go above and beyond and be there to make sure that these first job opportunities are successful," Michael Horton, Executive Director of Bunker Coffee, said. "And so the folks who are part of the Alliance, the employers who are part of the Alliance are those who have stepped up and said, We're going to go this a little bit farther, and be there for these veterans in terms of making sure that we put all the support pieces in place to make sure that their first jobs are successful."
The Coffee Bunker set 11 guidelines members must make every effort to meet or exceed to be involved:
- Assign an in-house Veteran Advocate
- Hire veterans as "direct employees"
- Comply with all applicable laws and regulations applicable to hiring employment
- Provide worker's compensation insurance
- Strive to provide a starting wage and benefit package as close as possible to the veteran's last military pay
- Provide employee benefits on terms no less favorable than that provided to other employees
- Shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, gender, religion, disability, age, political affiliation or belief, or genetic information
- Provide job descriptions for all positions within the company w/SOC Codes (optional)
- have an apprenticeship program in place (optional)
- Maintain an in-house veteran support group (optional)
- Make all possible efforts to provide veterans with job/career growth opportunities
One of the first companies to join the alliance is Tulsa's own Bama Companies. In fact, Bama was instrumental in the launch of the program.
"You know, when you're getting out, you're pretty much on your own and you're trying to figure stuff out on your own," Kevin Shows, Food Safety Director with Bama companies, said. "That's what's good about this alliance is getting you to know, getting in front of the veterans and kind of laying out a process that will definitely help them be more successful as they transition."
Shows became part of the Bunker for some time, even serving on the board of directors.
"A couple of years ago, I was looking for some volunteer work. Bama does a lot of volunteer work in the community," Shows said. "And I myself am a Navy veteran. So I started talking to Michael about doing some volunteer work here, started really getting involved with the Coffee Bunker, I served on their board of directors for a couple of years. And then we started talking about how we could look at helping veterans transitioning out of the military in civilian life. And how we could possibly bring some of those people into Bama, which is a great company here in Tulsa, a great company to work for a great culture. I remember when I got out of the military, transitioning from military life to civilian life was a little difficult. It's great to have an organization like the Coffee Bunker to kind of help veterans transition."
"Our message, like the Chamber of Commerce's message, come to Tulsa because it's a great town, employers are very, very friendly," Horton said. "And then you have a very supportive veteran community here to take care of you."
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