Daniel S. & Jackson M.

The Roadmap to a Veteran-Inclusive Workforce

Discover how to transform military expertise into civilian workforce success with our insightful guests, Ken Amoako and Noor Kayali Lopez from National University. Absorb their shared wisdom as we navigate the rich terrain of building and nurturing a Veteran-inclusive workforce, paying special attention to the initiatives and resources developed by National University. Their personal experiences and passion for the military community will inspire you as we highlight the unique value that Veterans, servicemembers, and spouses bring to an organization.

We then take you behind the scenes of National University's innovative outreach strategies, demonstrating how to connect with Veterans and servicemembers effectively. Learn the benefits of fostering a sense of camaraderie and how ongoing education and professional development is supported at the university. Noor and Ken further guide us on the journey to creating a successful Veteran hiring program, shedding light on the importance of leadership support and strategic partnerships. So, let's embark on this enlightening expedition into the heart of National University's Veteran hiring program and uncover the true essence of a supportive community for our military personnel and their families.

Show Notes

  • 0:00:42 - Leveraging Military Community for Talent Acquisition (108 Seconds)
  • 0:06:32 - Military Support and Career Opportunities (78 Seconds)
  • 0:12:43 - Integrating Military Personnel into Workforce Challenges (91 Seconds)
  • 0:20:30 - Supporting Veteran Staff Professional Development (80 Seconds)
  • 0:23:46 - Veteran Hiring Initiative Partnerships and Impact (94 Seconds)
  • 0:30:35 - Empowering Support for Community Groups (68 Seconds)

0:00:01 - Announcer

You are listening to the National University Podcast.

0:00:10 - Kimberly King

Hello, I'm Kimberly King. Welcome to the National University Podcast, where we offer a holistic approach to student support, well-being and success - the whole human education. We put passion into practice by offering accessible, achievable higher education to lifelong learners. Today we are talking about hiring military Veterans and service members and military spouses. Right now, there are many open jobs and too few to fill them. As a result, businesses can't grow, compete and thrive. The US Chamber Foundation's America Works Initiative is mobilizing business and government to swiftly address this crisis.

One critical talent pool employers should consider recruiting from is the military community. The US military community, active service duty service members, Veterans and military spouses represent a vast, diverse and talented pool of individuals, while active duty service members are not considered to be a part of the civilian labor force. Veterans are Joining us are two experts from National University Ken Amoako, and he's the senior director of talent acquisition at National University, bringing over 11 years of expertise in leading talent acquisition. His impressive career includes managing talent acquisition at prominent companies such as Sightlock, Nextiva and Loan Depot. During his time at Nextiva, Ken was a part of the Arizona Corporate Council on Veterans Careers, highlighting his longstanding commitment to supporting the military community. Before his talent acquisition roles. Ken's experience as a finance advisor in higher education, directly supporting the military, demonstrates his unique understanding of the intersection between the academic and military world, whose drive to support those who serve is deeply personal, rooted in a profound respect for their sacrifices and contributions. As he looks to the future, his goal is to establish National University as a premier destination for top talent, embodying a culture of inclusivity and excellence, and Noor Kayali Lopez brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the field of military hiring and employment support.

With the background in hospitality and staffing, Noor graduated from Purdue University with an ABS in hospitality and tourism management. She is currently pursuing an MBA with National University, and she combines her academic achievements with a career journey that has taken her from the hospitality industry to staffing agencies, culminating in her role as a talent acquisition partner. As a former military spouse, Noor is deeply committed to supporting the military community. Her passion is evident in her tireless efforts to empower military spouses and Veterans to find meaningful careers. She encourages candidates to recognize the valuable skills that they bring, emphasizing their adaptability and commitment, and we welcome both to the podcast. Boy, so impressive. Thanks for joining the show. How are you doing?

good are you good? Why don't you fill our audience in a little bit about your mission and your work before we get to today's show topic? And I know there are two of you, so, Noor, let's start with you.

0:03:37 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

Okay, you know I was hoping you started with Ken just to make it easier for me. But you know I always say I'm a little bit of a citizen of the world. I'm originally from Spain. I ended up in the US about eight years ago and I found myself involved in the military community because I became a military spouse when it was very new to me. It was something that I never thought I would get there, and that is one of the things that makes me want to support military spouses and Veterans right now in hiring. I love talent acquisition, I love being able to help people find, you know, things that make them happy, careers that make them happy, and I think NU has given me the opportunity to put both together and be able to support people like that.

0:04:35 - Kimberly King

Excellent, I love how you're combining that and you do seem very passionate about that. And now, ken, tell me a little bit about your mission and background.

0:04:43 - Ken Amoako

Absolutely, so. I always found myself in roles where I was supporting people and helping people get better at different things and wanted to get into HR at a certain point and then realized that I didn't really want to do the employee relations side. But I loved the ability to be able to look at talent and bring them into the company, because, at the end of the day, no matter what happens, the talent of a company is its lifeblood and that's what makes a company not do well or be stellar. Right? We all know that, and so I've always had a passion for finding those great people and bringing them to the table and advocating for them and also advocating for the company, and so that's basically my mission and I just love continuing to do it, and I've also been able to touch and help a lot of different people get to different places that they've not been and, in essence, also elevate companies that I've worked with.

0:05:46 - Kimberly King

I love that, and that's really kind of what it's all about is when you connect somebody with their true talents and you've made a difference. So I love that. You can see that both of you are very passionate and I really particularly in love that, love that today we're talking about hiring Veterans and service members and military spouses, and so we're going to talk about all of this today and thank you for what you do and for also putting National University on the map. Can you let's start with the first question is can you elaborate on the specific initiatives and resources that National University has developed to support the transition of military Veterans, spouses and transitioning service members into the workforce?

0:06:29 - Ken Amoako

So yeah, I'll go ahead and start out. So we do a lot of different things. Number one we attend military spouse career fairs pretty regularly. One of the ones that we do a lot is amplify, which Noor has been integral, and just working with that group and going there and doing not seminars but just workshops and then also working with that community to find jobs and apply with us. We just recently created a military specific career page that we really want to showcase what the benefits the military community is and bring them in that way. We are also developing an MCAT fellowship and then also working with skill bridge. So the MCAT fellowship will help out with bringing military spouses to either reskill or upskill them and then additionally, skill bridge will help us with transitioning service members so in the last six months they can be stationed somewhere where they can actually work with a company, gain some skills and hopefully gain employment to really help with that transition. Additionally, we've established military resource groups to support our Veterans and spouses really building that community here at National University.

0:07:50 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

And I think you know that last point, where Ken was talking about those employee resource groups, is very important. Like I was saying, we get to support and advocate that community which a lot of times there's not a lot of understanding of what they're going through and that transition is going to be pretty hard. So that's a big point that we're introducing right now. I'm very excited about that.

0:08:13 - Kimberly King

You know what I love that you're doing that too, because it really sometimes takes that life skill, that life knowledge. You've been there, you're a military spouse and thank you for your service, but because that transition isn't always easy, so it's nice that you can give that advice and really kind of set people up, you know, to succeed rather than to fail, because you've been walking in that path.

0:08:35 - Noor Kayali Lopez 


0:08:35 - Kimberly King

What would you say to employers who are hesitant to hire Veterans and others from the military community because of the so called military mindset or other stigmas?

0:08:48 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

I mean I will say they're missing out. I think you know. No, but I truly believe that, because I think the military community overall brings a specific type of skill set that not everyone has. They bring a lot of commitment, they bring a lot of hard work and they're truly there because they want to better themselves and better their careers. They're not just looking for a job. That is my point. I don't know, Ken, if you want to add anything there.

0:09:18 - Ken Amoako

Yeah. I think what I'll add to that is you know, the military community is often misunderstood, especially regarding the translation of their roles to the transitions and stability and lifestyle. So a hiring manager may take a look at a military resume and be like what is this? They

don't understand anything it says on there, it doesn't translate well, and so there are tools to help translate what the military resume looks like and what those skills bring, but also working with the hiring managers to try to look past that and understand. Hey, just because you don't understand what it says doesn't mean that they weren't doing a specific job in the military that matches what you're doing right, and then you know, get educated. So there's a tool we are that we just recently had introduced called Psycharmor and that offers a lot of training for hiring managers to work with the military community. So that's another tool that we've been using. And even looking at military spouses this, the amount of resilience and adaptability they have with their constant changes from like PCSing that. That is something that people need to take a look at and go. This person's not job hopping their resilient and they keep getting jobs at different places because people like them and then they have to leave everything and adapt really quickly. So while something might look a certain way, it's really understanding what that actually translates to.

0:10:47 - Kimberly King

So important and that is a good point, because people do kind of they think wow and so it's really understanding that culture, that military culture. It's so nice that they have you there just to really explain and to really help advocate. How did the leadership and operational skills learned in the military translate into the workplace at National University?

0:11:12 - Ken Amoako

So, you know, military candidates are really resilient folks they're. They're quick learners and they're used to executing processes pretty efficiently. You give them the orders to execute that and they're used to doing that and doing it repetitively and getting it right every time. And you know they also come with extensive training and education during their service. So a lot of times, like when I was a finance advisor, there was a lot of people using tuition assistance so that they could get through their degree, either to up level themselves within the military or be ready to use it when they get out. And then, additionally, a lot of times they have Post 9/11 GI Bill so they're able to use that once they get out to also get education. So a lot of times they come with that, that education piece.

0:11:59 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

And then they perform well in under pressure. I mean I think that's a very important skill too. So just something to keep in mind, something I've noticed, to how Ken was saying they come with that education part, a lot of them military spouses, Veterans. I see them with PhDs, with masters. I mean they prioritize their education and that's something that is definitely something very important skill that are bringing.

0:12:23 - Kimberly King

I love that too and it is true, I love working with military personally. And you're right, I mean, there is just always order, always on time, and maybe rarely make any mistakes, because that you know, they are learned, they're educated for perfection. So that's, I think it's all right. When integrating military personnel into the workforce, what specific talent acquisition challenges arrive and how is National University addressing these challenges to facilitate smoother cultural assimilation?

0:12:58 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

I think we touched a little bit on it, on how we were having to educate, you know, our team members and hiring managers on how to read a resume, how to translate those skills. But I think right now what we're doing is that mainly, we're working with the hiring managers we have. We have this Psycharmor training that's rolling out and it's going to be available, I think, for everyone can write yeah, and it's a great way to understand. You know where they're coming from, what skills are bringing, how to talk to them. I think that's a very big thing. What things not to say, or not to ask. But I think that would be it mostly. I don't know, Ken, if you have anything else to add.

0:13:44 - Ken Amoako

Yeah, I think that's it. I think we kind of touched on it previously. Just it's that translation and building value in the value that they already are there, already have right, but translating it to the hiring manager so that they can understand.

0:13:58 - Kimberly King

And sometimes they don't realize the value that they have, and so you're the one that comes in between the media to say, hey, you'd be really good at that. So that's what this is all about, and sometimes they just see themselves in that, in that one area. So, yeah, they're really interesting. Can you talk about the general successes and contributions that Veterans and military spouses have brought to National University?

0:14:21 - Ken Amoako

So our Veterans and military spouses are in some of our leadership roles and crucial roles across the university. So their dedication contributes significantly to making National University a top choice for students and it also highlights our Veteran roots right, that's where we came from, that's what we originally were supporting, and so having military community involved in a lot of the work that we do is great. And we've seen folks that have come and gone straight into leadership roles, and we've seen people that, for lack of better terms, were given a chance right because we were able to work with the hiring managers. And then we see those, those people elevate themselves throughout the university very quickly.

0:15:03 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

I mean, I can talk personally. I there's a lot of military spouses that I work with and the work that they do, not only for National University but outside for their community, is amazing. They're very involved in supporting the community in and I can talk specifically about Danielle Malloy. She's one of our peers, she's one of the managers for outreach in the Mil-Vet team and she does great, great things with the community and to help the community itself.

0:15:34 - Kimberly King

That's great. Could you describe the outreach methods National University uses to connect with Veterans and service members for employment opportunities?

0:15:46 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

So, like we said, we attend those career fairs. I think those are very big events where we can connect with the personal military personal Veterans, active duty face to face, and I think that's a great way of meeting them. A lot of them are not on LinkedIn, so it's a great way to encourage them to get on LinkedIn and talk to us, get to know them. And then attending also, you know, conferences like MSEP. I think that's a military spouse conference as well just for us to connect and network with other people. The Amplify events, like Kim was mentioning earlier. That's a great way. When we do those workshops, we connect with a lot of people, and not only military personnel but also other companies that are working to support this community as well, which helps a lot building to build that network.

0:16:38 - Ken Amoako

And then add we have partnerships with groups like Hiring Our Heroes, be connected. That's out here in Arizona where I'm at, and, just to like what Nora was saying, not only do you meet military community folks but you also meet other employees that are dedicated to doing this so that you can start to share talent, start to share ideas. I was at a be connected event a couple of weeks ago at Dignity Health here and I met somebody that is she's responsible for the skill bridge program and she's been successful there. So that helps me because I can ask her what she's done to be successful and what she's done to get that rolling, and so being part of that is also really strong for her.

While it's not direct outreach, it's creating pathways.

0:17:26 - Kimberly King

So right and you. You're both so great at connecting and just really listening to other people's stories to see how they made it in that transition, so you have to be you both seem to be people persons, I guess is how you say it and well connected in your community. So this is great information. We have to take a quick break, but stay with us, we'll be back in just a moment, don't go away. And now back to our interview with national universities, Ken Amoako and Noor Kayali Lopez. And we're talking about hiring Veterans and service members and military spouses, and it's so interesting. I really love this space that a national university has reserved for the Veterans, you know, and the family members. So what strategies does national university employ to ensure the retention and job satisfaction of Veterans and military spouses once they're hired?

0:18:23 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

So you know, one of the big things is we encourage our hires in the military community to self identify right, because that gives us the opportunity to invite them to the employee resource groups so they can feel that sense of community. I feel like one of the big things in the military and I'm sorry I'm going to say this word wrong, so please correct me is the sense of commemorate. What is it? Camaraderie? I'm not going to say that, but people in this community need to feel like they're supported and I think a great way to ensure that they're feeling like that is having employee resource groups like the ones that we have for Veterans and military spouses, so they know that they have somewhere that they can go if they have any questions or any issues or they just need to talk to someone. Good point.

0:19:22 - Kimberly King

Ken, did you want to add anything on that?

0:19:26 - Ken Amoako

I think that's our biggest thing that we're doing right now. That's outside of what we would normally do for other employees, right from job satisfaction standpoint. So I would agree with Noor saying that camaraderie is super important because that sense of belonging here's the thing. When you come to work, you spend nine hours a day with people, probably more than your family so feeling like you belong there is the only reason why you're going to stay. That's what makes it hard when somebody's like, oh, I want to quit. They're like, oh, but I don't want to leave my best friends.

0:20:01 - Kimberly King

So that's a good point and with all that moving around and everything, it's really finding those communities and that camaraderie, kind of wherever you go, and so when you foster that, that's probably what makes the big difference.

0:20:13 - Ken Amoako

And a good point to that too is because we're a remote first company. That also helps, as they PCS right to be able to keep something constant, which is also something that does help with job retention and satisfaction for these military community folks.

0:20:29 - Kimberly King

That's a good point. So next question is how does National University support the ongoing education and professional development of its Veteran staff members?

0:20:40 - Ken Amoako

So we provide free or discounted tuition to all of our employees for certain programs, and we're also committed to career progression. So we have specific roles where we want people to make sure that they progress, and we have a set path and then the progress. So those would be some of our roles, like our academic advisors, our enrollment advisors. So it's really nice, especially if you're somebody that's in the military right because you have a set path for progression. It's nice to be able to come and feel that same thing in some of our roles that we have here. Additionally, we offer a library of learning opportunities with resources like LinkedIn learning, and then we also provide professional development funds for certain roles too, so that if you need to go to conferences to get yourself to be better at a few different things, you can do that. So, for example, me attending the MSET, the military spouse- event yeah.

That was able to learn quite a bit and meet a lot of people. So we have that across the board for folks to grow professionally or personally.

0:21:53 - Kimberly King

Yeah, it's really good for the whole family to know what those resources are. I come from a law enforcement family and so we also have military as well, and there really are the communities. I mean it's important to make sure you build those and to know what professional development is there for an organization just starting to build a Veteran hiring program. What foundational advice would you?

0:22:16 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

offer. I think it's very important to have support from your leadership right, because it takes more than just one person to actually do this. I think there's a lot of organizations out there that will say you know, we support military Veterans and active duty, but there's really not much going on. And I think you know, once you gain that, that support from your leadership, you can actually start changing things. So, starting from there, I think that would be very important. I don't know, ken, do you want to add anything else to that?

0:22:52 - Ken Amoako

Yeah, I agree, and here at NU, president Milliron, specifically, is supporting that and he's allowing us to have the pathway to get more done, because when it comes from the top it's a lot easier to send that message through. And then you know, when Noor and I bring a candidate forward, we can talk to the team and the team understands why we would bring somebody that maybe doesn't look like a fit and then work with us, right? So, having that support, having that the funding and everything to be able to support initiatives like this is extremely important, and that's how you're going to be successful at the

0:23:30 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

end of the day and understanding of the community right. Just make sure that you know getting your information on what they're looking for, if you're a good fit for them. You know things like that Also understanding what they're needing, and doing your homework there.

0:23:44 - Kimberly King

Good point. Could you talk about the partnerships you've established to support the Veteran Hiring Initiative and their impact?

0:23:53 - Ken Amoako

So we have partnerships with Psycharmor and MSEP, which enhance our ability to provide robust training, while organizations like Be Connected and Hiring Our Heroes have helped us with creating connections with other employers and support for our military community staff. We are actively searching for new partnerships with initiatives like MSEP and SkillBridge. Those are the two ones that I'm focusing for our team to bring to light and bring forward, because that's going to help out with the upscaling and rescaling of military spouses.

0:24:31 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

And then SkillBridge will help out with the transition of service members into roles painful employment, and I will say, since this, initiatives have been established, people are getting to know and you, I've had many people come up to me at events say like, oh, I've seen you guys, you know, I've heard about you. Oh, you are doing this, you're hiring spouses or you're hiring Veterans, and I think also putting our name out there and telling them hey, we're here to help you. I see it more and more every day and how it's impacting. You know, both NU and the community, and it's a great thing.

0:25:11 - Ken Amoako

Yeah, a few of the events I've gone to and people have been, you guys are always here! Right, so we're showing our support for sure.

0:25:18 - Kimberly King

That's great. Oh, I love that. What key performance indicators does National University use to assess the effectiveness of your Veteran hiring program and what improvements are on the horizon?

0:25:32 - Ken Amoako

So we use WorkData, track military applications and hires and we aim to make our tracking more robust so we can identify better sources for our candidates that are coming from the military community. And then also we have a newly created military recruiting page which is going to provide some demographic insights so we'll have an idea of you know what types of military folks are interested in our roles and what roles they're interested in so we can do a better job of matching them to those roles. And then we're also beginning to utilize the MySQL webpage, which is part of the DOD for military spouses, to track the military spouse engagement. So what military spouses are looking at our roles, what are they interested in and, once again, being able to best advertise for them. And then we also monitor self identification after the person's been hired and to measure kind of what our program success is.

0:26:32 - Kimberly King

And then, Noor, I was going to ask you if there's anything else you wanted to talk about. I really wanted to find out from you about being a military spouse and kind of that space, and what those statistics are right now.

0:26:50 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

In terms of numbers at NU? Okay, so you know I will tell you, at NU, right now, we're building slowly the number of military spouses that we are hiring. Our efforts are still out there. We're still trying to get more people, trying to get people to self identify. I think we're in. I might be wrong on this number, but I think we're like under 1% of military spouses right now. We're definitely trying to get more people here and I feel that sense of community.

You know, I co-lead the ERG with Danielle Malloy for military spouses and I see how slowly that group is getting bigger. People are feeling more comfortable, self identifying, which I think is a very big point too. A lot of veterans and military spouses don't feel safe to self identify when they apply for jobs. So the fact that we're encouraging, that, we're trying to change that stigma of you know you come from the military, that's going to be. You know they're not going to hire you or they're going to be picky, whatever, and we're trying to change that so that they feel like they're, they're welcome, we want them here, we want you here.

0:28:09 - Kimberly King

So yeah, Interesting, and is there anything else that you want to talk about before we wrap up today? About that, we should know about National University's alliance and hiring military. We're just saying that there could be other resources that maybe may not be for National University but for elsewhere. Talk about that.

0:28:32 - Ken Amoako

Absolutely so. As we're working with a lot of these different partners, there's resources that I think a lot of military spouses and Veterans don't know that are available, and so sometimes we may not have a match for a role for a military spouse or Veteran, but what we want to do is start to work and see if we can start to add some of these resources to our career page. So while we maybe were going to be able to hire you, we were able to get you in front of some resources that can get you hired. So that's one of the things that we're also looking at working on to really support the military community from a different angle. So I think, number one, we're excited because we went from having, I would say, not a specific, specific programs and different things in mind I would say, about a year and a half ago.

Right, we were just, we were hiring Veterans, we are hiring military spouses, but we didn't know how or why, and we're now moving to that right, we're now understanding where people coming from. And, to Noor’s point, sometimes people don't want to self identify and maybe they don't even know that we are a place that they can come and feel safe and be treated well and be part of a community and feel like camaraderie, and we're now being extremely intentional about that. So, while Noor says we might be doing some of it, so we're seeing increased growth let's call it quarter over quarter where we're seeing more and more people being interested in our jobs from the military community and more people communicating with us and in the end that's going to translate into more hires and more of that population being here with us at National University, which is once again it was Veteran founded. So it's really good to feel that we're continuing that legacy.

0:30:14 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

And I want to add we have a lot of passionate people that are truly, truly wanting to do this that they not only do it because it's their job, but also because they want to support their community and they enjoy doing that. I think for me, that was one of the biggest things. I felt lost when I first became a military spouse. I didn't know there were these resources out there or even companies that were willing to hire military spouses and Veterans, and I think that that was one of the things that moved me to want to do this job, and I can tell you I'm very passionate about supporting this community and helping them out as much as possible, and I think we have a great, great team of people that are on the same boat.

0:31:00 - Ken Amoako

And I've worked places where it hasn't it hasn't been a focus for the company, and so us having the ability to go Noor, I want you to go to as many of these events as you can go to so that we can make sure we're supporting these different groups is really powerful, and that's something that I think is really great that NU has allowed us to do.

0:31:20 - Kimberly King

That's really. It's inspiring and it's almost as if and you answered a call that they didn't necessarily place, but then look at everybody showing up now. So good for you and thank you for making a difference. I think this is really great things you're doing. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and you. There's more information on the website, so if you want to take a look at it is the NU.edu, is the website, and thank you so much today for your time. Thank you for having us.

0:31:49 - Ken Amoako

Thank you.

0:31:50 - Noor Kayali Lopez 

Thank you.

0:31:54 - Kimberly King

You've been listening to the National University podcast. For updates on future or past guests, visit us at NU.edu. You can also follow us on social media. Thanks for listening.

Show Quotables

"Military candidates are really resilient folks- they're quick learners and they're used to executing processes pretty efficiently. You give them the orders to execute that and they're used to doing that... and getting it right every time." - Ken Amoako, https://shorturl.at/nAKU6 Click to Tweet
"The military community overall brings a specific type of skill set that not everyone has. They bring a lot of commitment, they bring a lot of hard work and they're truly there because they want to better themselves." - Noor Kayali Lopez, https://shorturl.at/nAKU6 Click to Tweet