By Alan Fleck
Ruth R. Hughs, a Texas Workforce Commissioner Representing Employers, travelled from Austin to Southwest Airlines headquarters at Love Field on Thursday, Dec.7 to meet with Jim Martin, Texas Veterans Commission, and several veterans employed by Southwest Airlines. The group met to recognize Southwest Airlines for its ‘We Hire Vets’ program.
Southwest Airlines employs more than 7,500 veterans, and in 2017 alone, hired 300 veterans including pilots, flight attendants, customer service agents, and ramp personnel.
“I am not surprised that Southwest has qualified for this recognition, and am very excited that Southwest has taken advantage of the ‘We Hire Vets’ recognition program,” she added.
“Southwest is a true model for other companies that employ veterans.”
Hughs said the required qualification for the recognition is Texas companies with at least 10% Texas veterans.
“In fact, the recognition is not only a commitment to hire veterans but also to retain veterans,” emphasized Hughs. “An employer can register for this recognition on their own or be nominated.”
Hughs continued to describe the goals and approaches behind the program.
“We are trying to reach our transitioning veterans 180 days before they separate from the service, as well as after. We can provide funding for training, and we want them to start thinking about that before they separate, ideally.”
“It’s just good business to hire veterans, since they really bring that level of leadership and integrity that is going to strengthen any business. We want anyone who has served in our military to experience the same pride and purpose while serving when they are out in civilian life,” Hughs said. “The TWC appreciates that Southwest recognizes that they know when they get a veteran, they get a motivated, team builder who will do a great job with high ethics.”
Commissioner Hughs and Jim Martin, from the Texas Veterans Commission, presented the certificate of recognition to Julie Weber, Vice-President, People, Southwest Airlines. She accepted on Southwest’s behalf.
Weber started her remarks by noting that this day is the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and recognizing those veterans for their service. Weber mentioned that Southwest has been actively hiring pilots this year.
“Southwest has been famous for ‘hiring for attitude’,” said Weber. “We have defined ‘hiring for attitude’ as living the Southwest way. We hire people who have a warrior’s spirit, a servant’s heart, and a fun-loving attitude. Those traits really are the very same traits that our military vets have.”
“It makes a lot of sense for our culture and our business to continue to work very hard to hire and retain veterans,” said Weber. “We actively work to hire military veterans. We are so dedicated to do that we have dedicated resource to fully focus on hiring and retaining our vets, Tina Clanton, Southwest Military Veteran Liaison,” Weber said.
Weber recognized several Southwest employees at the ceremony who are veterans, including John Freed, 22 year air force veteran, Southwest Captain and Military Ambassador, who has been involved with a military ambassador program to help with recruitment and retaining veterans.
“The transition back to civilian life can be scary,” Freed said. “We have been told what to do for 22 years. Then, all of a sudden you have options. I wanted to continue to fly and thought about joining Southwest.”
“When I was transitioning out into the civilian world, people were very grateful for my service but I received no job interviews,” Andrew Watterson, Southwest Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer and Army Veteran said. “People have this caricature that all veterans are similar such as drill sergeants on television or in the movies. However, the diversity of veterans’ backgrounds is extraordinary and the diversity of veterans’ skill sets is extraordinary.”
“We really need to make a conscious effort to seek out veterans for interviews, interview them, hire them and develop them,” Watterson said. “It is not easy and it does not happen by accident. You have to do it on purpose. At Southwest, we do it on purpose. And we have reaped great benefits. We target a turnover in our company of less than 2%. We want people who come in to fit. And we want those who fit to do well. The military veteran pool is a great pool from which to fish. We do very well there and we expect to continue to do well there. We are grateful for all your assistance and your recognition of us doing that.”
Southwest attends military career fairs in its search for qualified candidates and actively recruits vets into a leadership development program.
Scott Powell, Southwest Project Manager, Network Operations Control, and Military Ambassador was also recognized by Weber. After his time in the military, Powell applied to join Southwest Airlines and has been at the company for many years.
“Southwest has values that closely align to my values,” said Powell.
Weber also mentioned that this is the first time for Southwest to complete the survey to qualify for this award.