Friday, 05 August 2011 16:41

Obama Supports Veteran Employment - Does the Contact Center Industry?

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There was a story on a local Phoenix TV news station this week about homeless veterans.  There are now over 10,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the U.S. that are unemployed and homeless.  The government has conducted a census of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans three times since 2006.  With each census, the number of homeless vets has doubled.

 I volunteer as the editor for Veterans to Work (www.veterans2work.org), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that works to find jobs for veterans and service-disabled veterans.  Veterans to Work (V2W) has a roster of 2,000 customer service-qualified veterans set up in home offices and ready to go to work.  97 percent have a high school diploma and most of them have additional training such as the specialty training they received during their military service.  28 percent have a bachelors degree or higher.  V2W has an additional 112,000 veteran resumes on file.

 I’ve written about V2W in my column in Contact Center Pipeline and in the NACC newsletter In Queue that goes to 32,000 contact center professionals.  I’ve provided a laundry list of reasons why contact centers should look toward veterans as potential employees and have tried to steer companies to V2W when there has been hiring to do.  Net result so far has been zip.

 A couple of months ago I was at an analyst briefing in Boston and at dinner I was telling some of the people seated near me about V2W and the goal of putting our veterans to work, particularly in the contact center industry.  Two vendor representatives, one from CDW and one from Convergys, immediately reached into their pockets and presented me with their business cards and a request to contact them regarding the hiring of veterans.

 I was more than happy to oblige.  The problem was nothing happened after I contacted these individuals.  I didn’t even get an acknowledgement from the woman at CDW, who happened to be a vice president.  The guy from Convergys at least strung me along through a few e-mail exchanges before finally ignoring me as CDW did.

Then last Friday I got an e-mail from one of the news services I subscribe to with the following headlines:

  • Convergys Hiring 500 at Florida Contact Center
  • Convergys Hiring 225 Agents in Cincinnati Metro Area

 Maybe CDW isn’t hiring but Convergys definitely is and I couldn’t get anyone’s attention at Convergys to talk about the benefit of hiring veterans. 

Today President Obama proposed tax credits to help companies hire unemployed veterans.  Noting that among the 1 million unemployed veterans, 260,000 are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama’s proposal would offer two tax credits for companies that hire unemployed veterans.  Any company hiring an unemployed veteran would receive a $2,400 tax credit.  If the hired veteran has been unemployed for six months or more, the tax credit would increase to $4,800.

The contact center industry has a spectacular opportunity here to create community goodwill and set an example that other industries would have to follow.  This is an opportunity to craft a new public perception of the contact center industry and the people who man the phones.  So often the butt of jokes (see my blog entry of June 10, 2011) this is an opportunity for the industry to exchange ridicule for admiration.

Someone has to step up to the plate and be a leader, which is not a strong suit among most contact center organizations.  In his remarks Obama challenged private companies to hire or train 100,000 veterans by the end of 2013.  I wish I had that kind of pull, but I don’t.  I’m not a politician but I am a veteran and in that capacity I’m asking the contact center industry as a whole to no longer ignore the need to put our veterans back to work.  If you don’t know where to start, contact V2W.

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