LONGVIEW — More than 210,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are looking for work nationally, but one local company hopes to put a dent in that number by placing a priority on hiring former service members.
About a third of Woodland-based Tribeca Transport’s 25 employees are veterans. The company wants to boost that number to 40 percent. The waste transportation firm received the “Hire-A-Vet” award Tuesday from the state Employment Security Department, which honors companies that place an emphasis on hiring veterans. It’s the second year that Tribeca has received the award, which is only presented to a handful of companies across the state every year.
The company started its emphasis on hiring vets three-and-half years ago. It uses the state’s “YesVets” program to find and recruit eligible veterans.
“For me, personally, I know the character of veterans and the qualities they have instilled in them during their service — discipline, teamwork and leadership,” said Eric Thwaites, chief operating officer for Tribeca. Those are the kind of traits Tribeca wants to see in its employees, he said.
Thwaites served as a scout sniper in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1995. So far eight of Tribeca’s employees are veterans, and a ninth vet is starting at the company soon.
The unemployment rate among the nation’s youngest veterans was about 6.4 percent in January, down from a post-recession peak of 15.2 percent in January 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, post-Sept. 11 veterans still have a substantially higher unemployment rate compared to their predecessors. The overall national unemployment rate in January was 4.8 percent.
Tribeca Transport President Michael Behrman isn’t a veteran himself, but his father served in World War II. Behrman said that hiring former service members is the “right thing to do.”
The company also is flexible with employees who were are on Active Guard Reserve or who are current non-commissioned officers with the military.
Through the YesVets program, Tribeca also was able to connect to resources from WorkSource that allowed the company to be reimbursed for 50 percent of one driver’s wages while he was trained through a WorkForce Innovation and Opportunity Act, said Michael Benko, one-stop operator with WorkSource.
Benko said Tuesday’s award, presented at Lower Columbia College, also recognized the company’s innovations in partnering with Lower Columbian College to start a commercial driver license program to address the ongoing shortage of licensed truck drivers. Two of the company’s drivers, Steve Pattison and Jeff Watson, also now work as LCC instructors who provide hands-on driving experience to students acquiring a commercial license.
Both the CDL class and the YesVets program are small ways the company tries to put more people to work regionally.
“We often hear the phrase ‘no soldiers left behind.’ For some, it’s just a fancy catchphrase. But it’s a way of life; it doesn’t stop when you take off the uniform,” Thwaites said.