VOL. 7 | NO. 52 | Saturday, December 20, 2014
More Veterans Calling Middle Tennessee Home
SAM STOCKARD | The Ledger
When Scott Ledermann, a military health care recruiter in Nashville, retired from the Army in October, it didn’t take him long to land a job with a local company.
Ledermann landed a job in his field, health care recruiting, with HCA Healthcare, one of many Middle Tennessee businesses that seek out veterans.
(The Ledger/Sanford Myers)
Nashville-based HCA Healthcare, a company that has made hiring veterans a priority, scooped him up in no time. Now, he’s working in human relations at the company’s operations center in Donelson.
“I feel like I’m fitting in pretty well,” says Ledermann, 40, of Wilson County, noting the HCA CEO’s vision, “lead by example,” matches the Army’s philosophy perfectly.
That’s one reason Nashville is rated the 10th best city in the nation for veterans to retire, according to USAA, Hiring Our Heroes and Sperling’s BestPlaces, which worked with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University to come up with those rankings.
The study measured variables such as military installation proximity and offerings, VA hospital proximity, military pension taxation, veteran wage growth, population growth, unemployment rate, jobs and job growth, and health resources for 370 major U.S. metropolitan areas.
Fort Campbell connection
Home of the Screaming Eagles of 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell provides support for the Army’s third-largest military population with 1,884 active-duty officers, 20,511 active-duty enlisted and 18,166 Army Reserve and National Guard.
It also supports 40,491 family members, 3,921 civilian employees and 112,629 retirees.
In fact, Ledermann served at Fort Campbell in Clarksville from January 1996 to November 1999, so he knew the Nashville area already. Ledermann also spent time in South Korea, Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Terre Haute.
In August 2012, he moved to Nashville as a military health care recruiter and had decided it was the place he wanted to live permanently.
“The people you meet seem to be very friendly,” he says.
He also wanted his son, Ethan, now a 16-year-old Wilson Central High School student, to have stable teenage years along with his daughter, Savanah, now a 12-year-old West Wilson Middle School student.
Ledermann says he also enjoys the “big-city amenities” along with the rural lifestyle. He and his wife, Edna, live in the Couchville area of Wilson County, but he can reach his office off I-40 with relative ease in about 25 minutes. Having grown up in Illinois, he can reach his boyhood home in four hours, too.
USAA, Hiring Our Heroes and Sperling’s BestPlaces snapshot of Nashville:
- Population: 1.59 million
- Median home price: $170,100
- Median rental price, two-bedroom: $883
- Unemployment: 6.5 percent
- Top veteran employment: Trade, transportation and utilities
- Local employers: HCA, Louisiana Pacific Corp.
- Nearby installations: Fort Campbell
It’s also convenient, he says, to drive to Fort Campbell, where he can use his military benefits such as the PX and commissary and Blanchfield Community Hospital, if necessary. He also has access to the VA Hospital in Nashville for major surgery.
“The cost of living was also very nice,” he says.
Because of the region’s military installations, Middle Tennessee employers are experienced at receiving and evaluating veterans’ job applications and placing them in jobs that match their skills, says Mark Drury, director of communications and marketing for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Both from a technical skill standpoint and an organizational leadership standpoint, veterans make attractive hires for many companies in Middle Tennessee, and programs like Hiring Our Heroes and the Tennessee Department of Labor’s Paychecks for Patriots program are an important part of helping veterans make the transition to civilian employment,” Drury explains.
The Tennessee Department of Labor set up a partnership with Goodlettsville-based Dollar General and other major employers across the state to help connect veterans with jobs. That included the “Paychecks for Patriots” hiring fair, a statewide event held Oct. 9.
In addition, Hiring Our Heroes held a November job fair in downtown Nashville at which 75 companies recruited veterans seeking jobs. Retired Gen. David Petraeus spoke at the event and encouraged companies to put soldiers’ skills to good use.
In recent years, about 25,000 veterans have gained employment through Hiring Our Heroes job fairs across the nation. Nearly 7 percent of Tennessee’s veterans are unemployed, which is higher than the Metro area’s rate of 5 percent.
With a total population of 1.3 million in the Nashville-Murfreesboro-Franklin area, almost 104,000 are veterans, 2013 Census Bureau figures show.
Some 37 percent of those are Vietnam-era veterans, while 20.5 percent are veterans of the Gulf War (1990-2001) and 14 percent served from 2001 or later. Only 5.1 percent remain from World War II, and 8.2 percent from the Korean War.
Twenty-six percent of those Metro-area veterans hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and another 34.2 percent have some college experience or an associate’s degree. Thirty percent hold a high school diploma or general equivalent, and only 8.4 percent have less than a high school diploma.
In the civilian labor force ages 18 to 64, veterans do better than their non-veteran counterparts with an unemployment rate of 5 percent compared to 6.6 percent.
The median income for veterans in the last 12 months is $36,690, $36,796 for men, compared to $26,652 for non-veterans, U.S. Census figures show.
Only 6.3 percent of veterans are considered to be living in poverty over the last 12 months, as opposed to 12.1 percent of non-veterans, according to the Census Bureau estimates.
But 25.8 percent of veterans in poverty have a disability, compared to 13.2 percent of non-veterans, the Census figures show.
When he came to Nashville two years ago, Ledermann says he didn’t realize it was such a hub for the health care industry. As a health care recruiter, he says he had the right skills to get a job with HCA, and its credo “really resonates” with him.
Over the last two years, HCA has hired 4,000 veterans nationwide after making a concerted effort in that direction.
“I wish more companies were doing it at the level HCA seems to be,” Ledermann says.
“Oftentimes, companies don’t realize the skill sets we have. I wish more companies would seek us out.”
HCA took up its veterans hiring initiative in 2012 and found out a lot of veterans didn’t realize there would be job openings for them in the health-care field, according to Avery King, lead military veteran recruiter and executive talent acquisition. At the time, the company had about 8,000 open positions.
Many of the jobs are in clinical and support positions, but veterans also can fill accounting, financing and logistics positions, he says.
One of the strong points for military veterans is that they are constantly training for a variety of positions and tactics, King says.
“They’re also mission-oriented,” he points out. “It’s about the team. It’s not about them.”
As volunteers in today’s armed forces, veterans are also likely to be caring people, which meshes with the health-care industry, King says.
Other than sheer numbers, the hiring effort has made the company better from the inside.
“It’s brought some very strong individuals into the organization that fit well with what we do,” King says.
Leadership skills are another strong point for veterans, which translates into good management.
Project management and technical advisory positions are also prime jobs for veterans, King says.
“They come in and they’re very successful because they use those management skills they used in the military,” he says.