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Ohio continues efforts to employ thousands of veterans in Butler, Warren counties

Hamilton Journal News - 2/5/2020

Feb. 5--Her mission is to make Ohio the most veteran-friendly state in the nation.

For the past year, Deborah Ashenhurst, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, has been working to encourage companies to hire and retain veterans to take advantage of their skills..

Ashenhurst, who spent 37 years in uniform, retired as an Army major general and is a former Ohio Adjutant General, spent Tuesday at Worthington Industries in Monroe touring the steel processing plant learning about the company's culture of teamwork and its efforts to hire and retain veterans.

"My job is to identify companies that are doing good things, team them up with good companies who want to do good things for veterans, not just to figure out how to hire them but how to retain them," she said. "Which means that you're hiring at the right hiring for the right level in the company so they aren't leaving for a better job."

In addition to visiting companies, the department has mentoring relationships and roundtable discussions and participates in veterans events.

Ashenhurst said there 733,000 veterans in Ohio.

"About 10,000 vets return to Ohio each year," she said. "We want them to come home and bring their friends."

She said the working with veterans is important to Ohio because they will make a difference in the community.

"This will make Ohio the valued-based, strong ethical state we want to be," Ashenhurst said.

Mike Perry, a retired Air Force veteran, said the company treats its employees with dignity and respect and keeps a family atmosphere. He also said the company works to find the right person to employ because "every one of our guys deserves a good teammate."

"I was looking for a similar culture after retiring from the Air Force in 2014," Perry said.

He said there are 158 employees at the company's Middletown and Monroe facilities, and 24 are veterans of the five armed forces.

"Everybody ... understands their role as a teammate for each other, and they're each here for each other," she said. "This is fabulous."

Ashenhurst said one of the hardest challenges for employers is understanding they don't have to hire veterans at entry-level positions, because many of them have supervisory skills. Many veterans already come to employers with skills, training and education.

"Service members will tend to undersell themselves because they were part of teams," she said. "They've spent their entire military career being on a team. They have to tell employers truly what their military skills were.... We're offering the best employee they can ever hire -- that sells itself. If they like working there, they'll bring their friends."

Ohio is home to approximately 900,000 veterans and military service members -- the sixth largest population in the United States, according to OhioMeansJobs.

Veteran employment is important for the state economy, because more than 9 percent of Ohio's population is made up of veterans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, officials said.

There are 5,035 employers that are designated as military friendly.

Those employers make their willingness or preference to hire veterans known via www.tinyurl.com/OMJveterans, a resource that went live in late 2014 with about 300 employers.

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