State Allows Hiring Preference for Veterans

Cpl. Aaron Mankin of Rogers has firsthand experience with how civilians express their gratitude for veterans. Often those shows of appreciation are issued verbally; occasionally they come in the form of a hug or the paying of a beer tab.

Any thank you is appreciated, but Mankin, who was wounded in Iraq and now serves as national advocate for veterans, would like to see more done to ease the transition into civilian life.

Thanks to the work of Thomas M. Dunlap, a legislative director for the Arkansas Society of Human Resource Management, with help from Mankin, Arkansas is attempting to do more.

Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law on Thursday an act that allows employers to voluntarily give preference to veterans when hiring. HR managers are freed from concerns that by providing preference, they are violating hiring laws. If two candidates for a job have similar qualifications, an employer doesn’t have to think twice about hiring the veteran for no other reason than because he or she is a veteran.

“It’s an appropriate way to say thank you for your service,” said Mankin, who has had 60 surgeries over the last eight years to repair damage from a bomb blast. “What better way to say thank you than to employ somebody you already have an investment in as a taxpayer, somebody that has given so much? They’ve spent years performing at a high level. They’re goal-oriented, mission-oriented individuals that can complete a task. These are what employers are looking for.”

The state of Washington implemented a voluntary veterans preference law in 2011. Minnesota followed last year. Arkansas now becomes the third state with similar legislation but is taking things a step further.

Veterans who return to Arkansas will have access to a Department of Workforce Services registry that lists employers who will provide preference. Dunlap said the directory is about six months from becoming reality, but once implemented it could be a valuable tool for HR managers and those looking for work once their tours of duty end.

Dunlap sees the registry as a way to make Arkansas a state of preference for veterans looking for work. It will be easier to identify employers willing to hire men and women who have served in the military.

“If we have a real vibrant hiring community for veterans we could attract workers from outside the state,” Dunlap said. “We want to make it much easier to hire and find work for veterans.”

No employer is required to participate in the veterans’ preference program. It is a voluntary process that requires no recordkeeping or justification for employment decisions and any veteran who has been released from active duty qualifies.

Mankin, who also serves as a spokesman for multiple nonprofit organizations, would like to see the program expanded beyond Arkansas.

“All it takes is volunteers to raise their hands and show they’re willing to serve those who have served,” Mankin said. “This can happen in every star on the flag. That’s how easy it is.”