Elburn trustee earns recognition from employer for veterans program

By on December 9, 2012

by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Jeff Walter on Monday was awarded the 2012 President’s Diversity Award by Blue Cross Blue Shield for his role in veteran hiring and veterans’ issues.

Walter, an Elburn village trustee, served for nine years in the United States Navy and 13 years in the Navy reserves. He began a grassroots effort at Health Care Service Corporation a couple of years ago to hire more veterans, and reached out to other veterans within HCSC, the parent company of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.

Walter began the process through educating hiring managers on the benefits of hiring veterans. HCSC began tracking progress in June of this year; since then, the company has hired more than 40 veterans.

In addition, 250 current employees within the company have been identified as veterans.

Walter, a senior manager of Information Technology Portfolio Solutions, understood from his own experience with the transition from a military background to the corporate world, that there are a number of skill sets veterans possess that translate quite well to the corporate setting. Helping corporate hiring managers gain an understanding of how to translate military jargon to visualize the contribution vets can make was the first step.

Walter contributed to the creation of a training video for HCSC hiring managers that identified valuable skills veterans gain in the military, such as leadership, integrity, dependability, mission-focus, discipline, being a team player, problem-solving skills and performance under stress.

Kathy Gaston, Walter’s coworker and a manager in the Portfolio Management group, worked with Walter on this initiative and said she knows first-hand the value that military experience can bring.

“People with military experience have the skills and the attitude that I want to hire for,” Gaston said. “There is a benefit in hiring for attitude and skills, and training for specific knowledge.”

Walter, Gaston and other task force members attend job fairs with company recruiters to assist with the screening process. In conjunction with the human resources department, the task force has identified specific jobs within the company—such as information technology, analytic positions, communications, customer service and business support—that lend themselves well to the veterans’ skill sets.

The company is working to obtain recognition as a “G.I.-friendly company,” Walter said, emphasizing that hiring veterans and others with diverse backgrounds just makes good business sense.

Nine veterans this year have participated in the company’s JAVA computer programming language boot camp.

“We’re giving these (vets) careers, not just a job—a place where they can grow and get an education,” Walter said.