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Hiring our heroes: A wise choice for businesses

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Integrity, initiative, judgment, courage and enthusiasm — these are traits businesses across America seek in job candidates. They also happen to be qualities servicemen and servicewomen develop in the military.

As a citizen, I honor the tremendous sacrifices made by these men and women. As a CEO, I also recognize how these attributes make them invaluable to the workforce.

I witness this positive impact daily.

More than 2,000 veterans work at Duke Energy, from engineers who operate our nuclear fleet, to lineworkers who connect our customers to the grid. Each one plays a critical role in powering the lives of 25 million people.

While the business community has made strong progress with veteran hiring, we need to do more. We need to increase hires and make veterans’ transition to civilian life easier.

It’s not only the right thing to do — it’s also good for business.

Valuable skills

Veterans possess training, technical skills and leadership qualities that transfer to business. They excel at working in diverse teams and adapting to new environments and assignments. And, they have a determination to see a job through to the end, no matter the circumstance.

This is never clearer than when the veterans we hire as lineworkers are on the front line of restoration efforts. After severe weather knocks out power for large numbers of customers, lineworkers often travel and stay far from home, working 16-hour days in pouring rain, freezing sleet or hurricane-damaged areas — staying until the last customer is restored.

Partnering for success

Because of the skills they bring, Duke Energy is finding innovative ways to hire veterans. This will be particularly important as we look to hire a large number of lineworkers to support our $25 billion grid modernization initiative. Veterans are prime candidates for these jobs and have a significantly higher success rate passing a test the industry requires for the position.

In order to make the hiring process easier, we collaborated with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on legislation he championed in the National Defense Authorization Act.

Sen. Graham pushed for a pilot program to ease the transition from active duty to civilian life, and we worked together to include language that would allow active duty service members to take pre-employment tests while still in uniform.

For Duke Energy, this means they can take the lineworker test and leave the military with an industry-recognized qualification, accelerating and simplifying the hiring process. The language was included in the bill passed by the Senate and final agreement on NDAA is expected later this year.

This is just one way we’re thinking creatively about this issue. More importantly, this is an approach that could work for other industries and companies.

Our goal

When I think about the behaviors and leadership traits we encourage at Duke Energy, the military is a perfect training ground. That’s why our goal this year is to fill 12 percent of our open positions with qualified veterans.

So as we celebrate Veterans Day this year, I hope we not only thank veterans for their service, but also reflect on how we can better serve them as they transition from serving our nation. We owe it to our veterans, and to our customers.

Lynn Good is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Charlotte-based Duke Energy, one of America’s largest electric power companies.

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