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Indianapolis, IN, USA (HQ)

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A Home in the Construction Industry

by: Shane McKenzie, Director – Veterans Program, Sunbelt Rentals
After serving in the military, veterans may find it difficult to communicate the skills they have learned to potential employers. But many of those veterans have found a home in the construction industry – including at Sunbelt Rentals.

To that end, Sunbelt Rentals established its Veterans Program in 2020 and currently employs 1,500 veteran teammates in North America, which accounts for 8 percent of the company’s workforce. Nine percent of its senior leaders are also veterans. The goal is to establish processes that allow veterans to enter the company at a level where they can make their impact much more quickly – all while their confidence continues to grow.

Why this commitment? Veterans bring unique and valuable skill sets to the workforce. Their leadership, work ethic, teamwork, and technical skills all contribute to the culture and success of the business – and establish the foundation for their own career growth and learning. Veterans have been trained to make prompt decisions when required and align quickly with shared safety protocols, both skills that help them succeed in the construction industry. Sunbelt Rentals acknowledges their service and the sacrifices these team members have made to support our freedoms. After learning firsthand about veteran transition stress and the struggles to meaningful employment, the company knew it had an obligation to make the process as stress-free as possible.

Sunbelt Rentals built the Veterans Program by veterans for veterans, so there is a deep understanding of the challenges these team members face. There is also insight into what it takes to be successful.

“We love our veterans. We love what they gain from the military, because the awesome thing is that we can help them – even though they may not know how their skill set applies to what we do,” said Johnnie Sanders, Sergeant-US Army, The Old Guard, and Sunbelt Rentals Branch Manager. “We can help them figure that out.”

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Aligning the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) veterans developed during military service to a job at the company is key. Being able to work and communicate similarly to their military role not only empowers veterans, but is also a means to increase employee retention. It’s critical for any organization hiring veterans to provide structure and support, especially during the first year of employment, as it improves the chances of long-term retention.

A look at the Veterans Program
Sunbelt Rentals actively supports veterans through its Veterans Program and has made it a mission to find fulfilling roles for both men and women who have served their countries. Structured coaching, training, and mentoring create an inclusive space where veterans and their families can thrive.

“Coming back home to Texas after getting back from the military was a lot of ‘What do I do now?’” said Sanders. “I found my way to Sunbelt. I didn’t know a whole lot about the business or the industry at the time but was able to find a home for myself where I fit in and they gave me the things that I needed.”

The company based the Veterans Program on four pillars: Resources, Recruitment, Recognition, and Retention.

Tailored resources for veteran team members and their families help them settle into their new jobs and homes. These resources include accommodation support and benefit guidance, along with administration support, a veterans hotline, and interagency coordination.
Sunbelt Rentals recruits veterans through job fairs and strategic industry partnerships. The recruitment process focuses on matching veterans to suitable positions, with recruiters using terms that compare open roles to their military specialty codes during initial meetings. Each branch of service uses specific military jobs codes, so utilizing these makes it easier to discuss and align similar employment opportunities. Recruiters also use meetings with potential veteran employees to convey the company’s culture.
Since the inception of the program, Sunbelt Rentals has introduced several initiatives to recognize veterans for their service and sacrifice. These include the Sunbelt Salute Coin given as a token of appreciation. This coin features a gold background representing poppies, which are a symbol of remembrance and hope. It also includes saluting individuals, which recognizes the salute as the highest honor bestowed upon a service member. Sunbelt Rentals has a uniform program that showcases veterans’ branches of service on select apparel.
Each new veteran employee receives focused support during the onboarding process and the first 90 days of employment. This support helps reduce stress during the transition into a private sector job. The Veterans Ambassador Program connects veteran ambassadors with new veteran hires to guide them in their new position and provide insight into the Veterans Program and its offerings. The program also offers support throughout veterans’ careers at the company.
An Ongoing Commitment
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, approximately 200,000 people exit the military annually. In many cases, the skills veterans learned during service directly match roles in the construction industry. Sunbelt Rentals is committed to recruiting these individuals for employment and guiding them toward a rewarding career. Keeping veterans’ KSAs in mind and understanding how they can translate to a job in the construction industry is key to obtaining that goal. Companies can remain competitive in hiring by using creative ways to attract service members transitioning into civilian life.
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