During her years of service in the U.S. Army National Guard, Carol Eggert worked full time as a technical consultant and felt stressed during the times she had to leave her job when she was called up for military deployment.
Now she’s retired from the military and working at Comcast Corp. where recently a new hire on her team informed her that he will be deployed for Air Force National Guard duty later this year.
Her first panicked thought, she said, was, “How am I going to deal with this?”
Then she realized her role was to offer understanding about such circumstances involving military employees.
“So I picked myself up and said, ‘We’re here to support you.’ ”
As Comcast’s vice president of military and veterans affairs, Ms. Eggert, a retired brigadier general, is overseeing an initiative to hire more veterans and make the company a welcoming environment for them and active members of the military reserves.
Ms. Eggert started in the newly created position last September and reports directly to top executives in the Philadelphia-based company’s corporate subsidiaries, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal.
Comcast has committed to hiring 10,000 veterans by the end of 2017 — about 10 percent to 15 percent of external hires — and though Ms. Eggert acknowledged that figure is ambitious, “We’ve already made quite a dent,” she said.
Last year, the company hired almost 2,400 veterans, up 38 percent from 2014, she said.
She was in Pittsburgh on Tuesday to address the U.S. Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve dinner held at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland.
Because many veterans possess skills that include leadership and teamwork, and can readily adapt to change and technology, they are qualified for a wide range of positions at Comcast and other organizations, she said.
But there are challenges for veterans and the employers who hire them.
“For two or three or five or six years, these veterans have been told by the military when to eat, when to get up. Their lives have been dramatically controlled,” said Michael Glass, executive director of the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, a South Side nonprofit that provides housing, job services and other supports to veterans and their families.
“Many are young men and women who left their parents’ homes for the military and never applied for a job before or marketed themselves,” said Mr. Glass.
And despite military skills and experience that can give them a competitive advantage for some positions, the unemployment rate among veterans isn’t much better than the current national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.
For all of 2015, the jobless rate among veterans fell to 4.6 percent from 5.3 percent in 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.
Female veterans had a higher rate of unemployment, 5.4 percent, than male veterans whose jobless rate was 4.5 percent.
Of 495,000 veterans who were unemployed last year, the government said, 57 percent were age 45 or over; about 37 percent were ages 25-44; and 5 percent were 18-24.
Among the initiatives that Comcast promotes for veterans and active reservists are its VetNet affinity groups that allow veterans to network and find mentoring opportunities with other veterans. About 5,000 employees are members of 15 chapters of VetNet, said Ms. Eggert.
The company also offers help for veterans translating their military skills to civilian jobs, full-time pay up to 15 days for reservists called to duty, and employment options for military spouses, Ms. Eggert said.
For its civilian workforce, especially those who work in recruiting and human resources, Comcast is educating them on military terms and acronyms so they can better help veterans assimilate.
“They can give our business a competitive advantage as long as we cultivate a military-friendly and military-ready culture,” she said.
A native of Delaware, Ms. Eggert enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school and played French horn in the Army band.
After 11 years as an enlisted soldier, she entered officer candidate school and served as a commissioned officer for more than 25 years. Besides the Army, her service includes the Army Reserves and National Guard.
During a 15-month combat tour in Iraq, she was chief of the women’s initiatives division and senior liaison to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
In August 2009, she was with nine other military personnel in a military convoy traveling from Camp Victory to Baghdad when their vehicle was struck by an explosive. Ms. Eggert was knocked unconscious for several minutes and sustained injuries to her ear but was able to assist fellow soldiers who were also injured.
She received a Purple Heart for her actions.
She retired in 2014 as assistant adjutant general, Pennsylvania National Guard; and deputy commander for the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Cumberland County.
She holds master’s degrees from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Cumberland County; and Penn State University; and a bachelor’s degree from West Chester University.
“We’re not doing this because it’s the nice thing to do,” she said of Comcast’s efforts to recruit more veterans. “We’re doing this because we need [veterans’] talents and there’s a need for this great talent pool.”