WASHINGTON — People who have a degree in science, technology, engineering or math who are looking for a career sometimes don’t think of a path in the Army. But opportunities are out there for the taking, it is just about looking in the right place.
At the 37th Black Engineer of the Year Awards Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Conference, or BEYA, which was held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention center Feb. 9 through 11, six commands were present to offer on-the-spot job interviews.
“This is an opportunity for Army and other employers present to actively engage with the academic community, with an underserved community to try and inform and acquire STEM talent, to really create a robust talent pool that allows us to establish a workforce or build a workforce that is reflective of the nation that we serve,” said Hong Miller, Army Futures Command chief human capital officer for the Civilian Human Resource Agency. “As an African American woman, it's inspiring — inspiring to see so many people of color, who were embarking to this place to be part of this event.”
Thousands of STEM professionals and students attended the event from across the country. Many of the students and participants were there to attend the key engagements, but many were there looking for new opportunities.
“I watched a busload of college students come in with their college sweatshirts and hats on, and they’re looking bright eyed and storied and hopeful,” said Lakreisha Johnson, Army Futures Command equal opportunities, and director of diversity and equity and inclusion. “It gave me chills because I’m looking at the future.”
In some cases, the Army civilian organizations present there were ready to offer a job on the spot as well.
“We will make the most of this [event] and really get a return on investment by taking the opportunity to interview those candidates, even if we don't have a job today to offer. If we do and we find the right talent, we're going to make making them on-the-spot job offer,” Miller said. “We came with the capability to offer incentives to make us more competitive.”
The Army civilian organizations are always looking to improve upon their hiring methods and strive to remain competitive with their civilian counterparts.
“If it is a difficult-to-fill position, and we’re authorized a recruitment incentive, that recruitment incentive can be up to 25% of that initial starting salary for up to four years,” said Tim Weathersbee, chief of the Talent Acquisition Division, Department of the Army. “We can now compete with the private sector, which we definitely need to do because we need more computer scientists and computer engineers.”
“We are now extending those competitive offers up front as our initial offer, rather than waiting for someone to come back and request a better offer,” he said. “We know that if we don’t extend our best offer, the likelihood is somebody else is going to hire that person.”
During the event, interviewers talked with their applicants about the benefits of joining government service to include paid sick leave, paid vacation time, health benefits, life insurance and a retirement plan.
Some of the urgent needs for hiring are under the umbrellas of mathematics, engineering, medical, science and technology.
“STEM is an area where we've got to really develop and round out the talent that we have, because everything that we do when we talk about innovation, and leaning forward into the future requirements,” Miller said. “We really need that STEM talent to help us develop the latest technology, the newest technology, and to stay on top of those technological developments so that we're not behind the power curve when it comes to winning on the battlefield.”
There are just under 500 career paths in government service and more than 250,000 civilian employees.
“If you don't necessarily want to serve in uniform, but you're interested in supporting that defense mission, the Army has something for you as well,” Miller said. “The Army has a lot more to offer than just the highest dollar figure.”
For Rodney Morgan, who first had his experience more than a year ago with BEYA that resulted in his hiring into civilian service, these types of hiring events are important.
“Without [BEYA] I wouldn’t have seen the big picture of how many opportunities there really are, especially being a Black engineer,” Morgan, who is a mechanical engineer with Aviation and Missile Center at Redstone Arsenal Base in Huntsville, Alabama, had a family member who was a Vietnam veteran. Morgan wanted to give back in his own way through government service. “It feels like a blessing to be able to work in my field and be of service to my country and support Soldiers.”
Because of events like this, the Army had been able to get more people hired into the right positions and get the talent it needs for the future. This year, more than 5,500 resumes were collected and more than 540 interviews were conducted.
“When you can help someone get their career started, get in the door, you know that they have an opportunity that they might not have otherwise had. You look forward to seeing the big things that they'll do down the road, and how they'll make a difference for the Army and for the nation,” she said.