For Veterans, Real Opportunity at Walmart

Yahoo! News Opinion Editorial

By Bill Simon, President & CEO, Walmart U.S.

November 11, 2013

Yahoo! News Opinion Editorial

This op-ed by Bill Simon appeared in Yahoo! News

As more than 1 million service members prepare to transition out of the military over the next five years, their number one concern is jobs. The unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans alone is unacceptably high. The time to hire veterans is now.

Many companies have recognized this, with Starbucks most recently announcing their commitment to hire 10,000 veterans over the next five years. Every company in America has benefitted from the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. If you do business in America and need to build your team, we hope you’ll consider veterans. They will bring unparalleled skills, knowledge, and experience to your business.  

Earlier this year Walmart pledged to offer a job to any honorably discharged veteran within his or her first 12 months off active duty. Since Walmart launched its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment on Memorial Day 2013, more than 20,000 veterans have been hired.

We value the qualities veterans learned in the service—leadership, commitment, discipline, problem solving, and hard work. We are honored to have veterans on our team—to learn from them and support them in every way we can.

Not every returning veteran wants to work in retail. But every veteran who does will have a place to go at Walmart. Maybe they're on the GI Bill with kids at home and need a part-time job to make ends meet. Maybe they're not sure what their next move will be and need something to tide them over. Or maybe they want a whole new career. They can find that at Walmart. With us, you can go as far as your hard work and talent will take you.

At Walmart we recognize initiative—something that is very familiar to our veteran associates. Take Elise Hackstall-- a 2004 West Point graduate. She transitioned from active duty to the Army Reserves in 2008 when she accepted a position at Walmart as a trainee shift manager. Within three years, she had been promoted to be a store manager in Columbus, Ga.

Or Rob Bibeau, a 14-year Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient, who has been working hard since July as a co-manager at one of our stores in New Mexico. He already recognizes there is opportunity for advancement at Walmart and says, “If you work hard, you can do well at Walmart. Just like the military.”

Lori Frank has been training to be a manager at a Sam’s Club in San Antonio since the end of September. She retired as a captain after a 27-year career as a Navy nurse.  We’re benefitting from her leadership skills. She likens Walmart to a family where colleagues are interested in helping you advance.

And these are not just isolated stories. We’re proud of our jobs and the fact that we promote 160,000 associates every year—that’s over 400 a day.  Seventy-five percent of our store management started as hourly associates.  The average salary for an assistant manager is $50,000 and the average salary for a store manager is $170,000.

In addition to personal opportunity for transitioning veterans, we also provide geographic opportunity.  As the nation’s largest retailer, we can provide jobs for veterans in regions where job growth has been scarce in recent years.

As Rob Bibeau was transitioning out of the Marines, he was offered other jobs, but nothing in his home town of Albuquerque where he and his wife hoped to raise their kids near to family. 

“I am so grateful I am here. In this economy there may have been nothing else here. This is where I wanted to be, so our son could be near his grandparents. If it weren’t for Walmart, I am not sure what I would be doing.”

I hope many of Rob’s fellow veterans will join us. As they so ably defended our freedoms abroad, now it is our turn to provide them opportunities at home.