Monica Stinson of South Portland used the state’s Hire A Vet campaign to transition from a machine technician in the Coast Guard to a project administrator at Tilson in Portland. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — After 16 years in the Coast Guard, South Portland resident Monica Stinson was looking for a way to transition from her military career to employment in the private sector.

With the help of the Maine Department of Labor’s Hire A Vet program, she found a good fit as a project administrator at Tilson, a network deployment and technology services company in Portland.

The goal of the annual campaign, which kicked off last Labor Day and wrapped up in early December, is for 100 employers to hire 100 veterans within 100 days. The 254 employers that participated in the 2019 campaign hired 282 veterans. In 2018, 191 employers hired 286 veterans.

Since it was launched in 2015, the campaign has connected nearly 900 employers with more than 1,300 companies and has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies.

“I knew my strength and what I could bring to the civilian world. I just needed assistance to show me the way through that, ” said Stinson, who worked as a machinery technician in the United States Coast Guard from 2002 to October 2019.

Through the program, Stinson met with career counselors,  got help with her resume and preparing for job fairs and was eventually encouraged to check out opportunities at Tilson.

She is not the only Tilson employee hired through the veterans program. CAD drafter Louis Hychko,  a former military police officer at Beale Air Force Base in northern California, got his job through the program after earning a degree from the University of Southern Maine in cybersecurity last year.

Tilson CAD drafter Louis Hychko works at his station Tuesday. Hychko is one of the many veterans the company has hired through a state program. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Hychko, a resident of Gorham, said he wanted to get involved with the program because he knew there were a lot of businesses in the state that were looking for the skills that come from military service.

“Why not get involved with that?” he said.

Tilson Vice President of Workforce Adria Horn said Hychko and Stinson were two of the 15 veterans the company hired through the 2019 campaign.

“We hire veterans all the time. It is part of what we do,” said Horn, who is also  a veteran; before joining Tilson in 2018 she was the director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services.

Tilson CEO Josh Broder served as an Army signal officer on missions in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, earning a Bronze Star for Service in Afghanistan.

The Hire A Vet program, Horn said, helped Maine go from one of the states with the highest rates of veteran unemployment to one of the lowest. The state’s veteran unemployment rate peaked at 8.7% in 2010. In 2014 it was 5% and it dipped to 3.2% in 2019.

With 15, Tilson was one of the companies with the most hires in the latest campaign, according to the Maine Department of Labor. Others include Bath Iron Works/General Dynamics, Northern Light Health, VA Togus–Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration, the state of Maine, Dead River Company, the city of Portland, Casella Waste Systems, Helical Solutions, Maine Veterans’ Homes, and Estes Oil.

Dead River Company used the Hire A Vet program to hire Tim Corbett, who is temporarily serving as its director of risk management and legal services.

Dead River Company, in South Portland, also has a history of hiring veterans. Nearly 12% of its employees are former military, the company says.

Dead River used Hire A Vet this fall to find Tim Corbett, who will fill in for Peter Black, Dead River’s director of risk management and legal services. Black, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Maine National Guard, is deployed this year in the Middle East.

Corbett served in the military for 32 years, beginning in the  Marine Corps in 1988 and the Maine National Guard from 1994 to 2019, and worked for the Maine Military Authority as its director for 11 years. Corbett, a resident of Belgrade, will take over for Black until Black returns from duty late this year.

“I was looking for the right job. I wanted it to have purpose. What attracted me to Dead River Company was its purpose of keeping people warm,” said Corbett, who knows Black from the National Guard.

The transition, he said, has been made easier due to the company’s commitment to the employment of veterans. Three of the five positions in his department are staffed by veterans.

Jessica Picard, communications manager for the Maine Department of Labor, said the goal of the campaign  is to increase the quality of life for veterans by working with companies to “to assist them in filling their open positions and with veterans to match them with career opportunities.”

The campaign, Picard said, “puts the prospect of hiring veterans higher on the radar for Maine employers, and by joining the campaign, the employer becomes an employer of choice for Maine veterans.” The effort also provides employers with “education and best practices for veteran recruitment, hiring and retention, and attracts veterans to the state.”

 

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