FOX Business Exclusive: Amazon on Tuesday announced a commitment to hiring 100,000 veterans and military spouses over the next two and a half years.
The retail giant hopes to hire about 84,000 veterans and 16,000 military spouses by 2024.
"Anecdotally, a lot of the veterans that I talk to — many of them raise their hand and defend the Constitution, and then they come out [of service], and they don’t know what to do, but they love the idea that they could be in a role that has real long-term value," John Quintas, director of global military affairs at Amazon, told FOX Business of the hiring effort.
Amazon, which has hired more people over the last decade than any other U.S. company, made an initial commitment to hire 25,000 veterans over five years in 2016 and has since surpassed that goal. The company currently employs about 40,000 veteran or military spouse employees who work a range of jobs for the company from its Operations and Supply Chain side to its cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services.
Beth Conlin, whose husband is an active-duty Army officer, took a job with Amazon as a senior program manager for the company’s military spouse program about a year and a half ago after working various jobs over the past five or so years to meet employer expectations as she moved across the country and overseas.
"We just finished our eighth move in 11 years. …," Conlin said. "Prior to coming to Amazon, I had hit a hurdle that a lot of military spouses hit, and that is moving overseas and finding it virtually impossible to maintain employment, and that was just really unacceptable to me."
Conlin, who works remotely for Amazon with the option of going into the office when she wants to, has since become an advocate for Blue Star Families and military spouses searching for work.
Amazon has 35,000 open jobs right now that are available to veterans with a starting minimum wage of $15 per hour, including benefits.
"Amazon has an important role to play when in ensuring that our military veterans have access to good jobs," Quintas said, "and when I say good jobs, I mean competitive pay and benefits, as well as really robust education and training programs so that they can continue to grow their careers."
Veterans come with "really strong team-building skills, leadership" and an understanding of "selflessness," which Quintas said are qualities Amazon looks for in employees that can help benefit the company as a whole.
Conlin echoed Quintas’ sentiment, saying she believes Amazon saw the value in hiring veterans and military spouses for the company’s success.
The biggest challenge Amazon has faced in its effort to hire more veterans is educating current nonmilitary employees about the needs of veterans and military spouses, she said.
Military spouses "are like a foreign concept," Conlin explained. "There was a lot of early education to be done, and that doesn’t just happen at Amazon. That still happens in the larger workforce. … There’s a lot of [mis]understanding of what a military spouse is or having preconceived notions about what it means to be a military family, not fully understanding that the average service member makes only $46,000 a year."
She added, however, that Amazon employees have been "willing" to learn more about veterans, military spouses and communities and their needs.
Military-specific benefits for veterans and military spouses at Amazon include access to a technical apprenticeship program that helps veterans grow into new career opportunities at Amazon, mentorship programs, military spouse support and a service member network community called Warriors at Amazon.
Other retail and tech giants have worked to hire hundreds of thousands of veterans over the years since JPMorgan Chase in 2011 announced a partnership called the Veterans Jobs Mission with an initial 10 other companies to hire 100,000 by the end of 2020. Initial partners included AT&T, Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Cushman & Wakefield Inc., EMC Corporation, Iron Mountain Incorporated, Modis, NCR Corporation, Universal Health Services Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.
Since then, hundreds of other companies, including Amazon, have joined the coalition with a new goal of hiring 1 million veterans. Nearly 700,000 veterans have been hired by Veteran Jobs Mission since 2011.
Amazon competitor Walmart has not joined the coalition but made a similar commitment to hire 100,000 veterans over five years in 2015 before expanding its goal to 250,000.
By 2020, Walmart had hired 265,000 veterans with more than 44,000 promoted to roles with higher pay and greater responsibility.
The Home Depot, which is also not in the coalition but currently has about 35,000 veteran or military spouse associates, made a $50 million pledge in 2018 to train 20,000 tradespeople over the next 10 years, starting with veterans and people transitioning from active military to civilian life, at-risk youth and members of the Atlanta Westside community.
The Home Depot Foundation has also committed millions of dollars to help veterans experiencing homelessness, and the company’s co-founders in February pledged $20 million to create 20 mental health centers for veterans across the country.
Amazon ranked No. 91 out of 150 companies on Forbes’ 2020 list of America’s Best Employers for Veterans based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. veterans who work for companies with more than 1,000 employees. The top five companies on Forbes’ list were Harbor Freight Tools, Northeastern University, Procter & Gamble, Fidelity Investments and Booz Allen Hamilton.
"There’s never a bad day to … hire more veterans," Quintas said when asked about the timing of Amazon’s new commitment, "and it continues to be one of the top challenges for transitioning service members, and having been in that position myself not too long ago, I talked to a lot of my peers … and as they approved that end of service date, it’s the No. 1 thing on their mind."
He added that Amazon’s 2016 five-year commitment to hire 25,000 veterans, which recently ended, also spurred the company’s decision to make this new two-and-a-half-year commitment.
FOX Business’ Lucas Manfredi and Matthew Kazin contributed to this report.