Bill Forbes, Goodwill’s director of risk management, said he won the figurative lottery when he enlisted in the military at age 18.
“I preferred an assignment in Florida, and my wish came true,” said the veteran who served six years in the U.S. Air Force. His first station was at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City for three years active duty. Then, Forbes served in active reserves at Duke Field, part of Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach. “The GI Bill helped me with college tuition and I earned a degree from Florida State University in criminology,” he said.
Forbes joined Goodwill in 2007 and helped establish its loss prevention program. From there, he assumed responsibilities in the organization’s health and safety, compliance and risk management departments. “I learned a lot in the military and I am proud that Goodwill recognizes how veterans are an asset to their organization,” he said.
Along with his education and military experience, Forbes has a long list of transferable skills that helped him succeed in the civilian workforce. It puts him in the unique position to be a leader in Goodwill’s initiative to hiring more military veterans and supporting current associates who have served in the military.
“Veterans are some of the best people you can hire,” he said. “They understand what it means to go above and beyond the call of duty and how to be a part of a mission that is bigger than yourself. Veterans also have many of the same core values that Goodwill embodies every day: respect, integrity, teamwork and commitment,” he said.
Goodwill recently strengthened that commitment by earning the distinguished “Virginia Values Veterans” (V3) certification. Sponsored by the Governor of Virginia, V3 is a program operated by the Virginia Department of Veterans Services to help employers implement nationally recognized best practices in recruiting, hiring, and retaining highly skilled and dependable veterans. Certification lasts for five years.
“The program is important to address what I believe is a disconnect with some employers in the civilian section,” said Forbes. “Recruiters and hiring managers may not be familiar with military titles and terminology. Also, veteran candidates may not know how to describe their transferable skills outside of military terms.
“But, Goodwill’s V3 certification helps eliminate confusion by educating those in hiring positions how to recognizing job skills ask questions that allow veterans to detail the experience they would bring to a job,” Forbes added.
Goodwill went further to support its veteran population by establishing a veterans resource group (VRG) in 2017. The group advocates for veterans’ interests within the organization and assists in recruiting, hiring, and retaining veterans.
“All our associates are important,” said Christy Roberson, Goodwill’s vice president of people operations, “but we recognized the need to assist veterans transitioning from military service to civilian life.”
The VRG includes associates from different military branches and divisions throughout the organization. “We are able to take a specialized approach with our veterans at various levels: from hiring veterans, training them with respect to their individual experiences and skillsets and giving them opportunities to grow within the organization,” said Roberson.
The group provides resources for veterans who may need help, both on the job and off, in successfully transitioning to a civilian lifestyle. “We welcome every new hire who identified themselves as a veteran on their first day of work with a special welcome letter, lapel pin and T-shirt. We have an annual Military Recognition luncheon. We also provide veterans with a list of contacts if they need to speak with someone about their journey or deal with any issues, including mental health,” said Forbes.
The VRG holds regular seminars for veterans, such as a recent one featuring an official from the Virginia Department of Veterans Services who discussed traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“These types of events not only benefit veterans, but they also give us the chance as an employer to look at our own procedures and how we are equipped to aid them with challenges they may face,” said Forbes.
Roberson also credits Goodwill’s V3 certification with helping the organization understand and minimize a common challenge for veterans in the civilian workforce – no longer receiving orders from a superior.
“One of the many reasons why the VRG is such an asset is the members could explain how our civilian managers can better communicate with veterans who are used to a certain hierarchy. Goodwill empowers its associates with a certain level of latitude and freedom to make decisions without having to ask permission first. We tell our veterans – ‘We know you know how to do the job. You can be a leader and set a positive tone for your coworkers without thinking you’re falling out of line,’” added Roberson.
Goodwill offers high-level leadership positions with competitive pay and benefits that can leverage the unique skills and expertise veterans hone during military service. The organization also hires veterans for government contract positions, many of which are located on military bases where security clearance and integrity are highly valued.
Job seekers interested in finding a career at Goodwill can contact 804-745-6300 in Central Virginia or 757-248-9405 in Hampton Roads, and learn more at http://www.goodwillvirginia.org.