Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Department of Social Work at Fayetteville State University

Name of Innovative Program: 
Boots to Suits Conference
Sponsoring Organization
Department of Social Work at Fayetteville State University
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Dr. Gregory Perkins and Berrak Walters
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Project Description: 
In October 2011, 859,000 veterans from all wars and other service periods were without jobs. Unemployment in North Carolina is driven by the lack of jobs and the continued loss of jobs even during the official economic recovery. Current projections suggest that employment levels nationally will not reach the pre-recession peak until early 2014. Study after study correlates unemployment with high suicide rates which is especially true among veterans. When soldiers leave the military, they lose the sense of belongingness. In addition, difficulties in obtaining a civilian job due to lack of education, translation of military resumes into civilian resumes, possible Posttraumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), and other mental health disorders and disabilities drive veterans into despair. Although there are workshops offered for transitioning veterans, educational workshops for the civilian employers are scarce. Department of Social Work at Fayetteville State University started its Boots to Suits Conference with the mission of training and educating human resources professionals and hiring managers on why veterans and spouses are an asset to any company and organization. The conference workshops are designed to encourage businesses and organizations to adopt military friendly hiring practices. 
Creativity and Innovation: 
With great respect, Fayetteville State University (FSU) recognizes the sacrifices of our nation's men and women veterans. Conference workshop topics include and educate participants on how to attract veterans; how to address veterans with physical and mental disabilities; types of career fields available through the military; what HR needs to know about veterans; evaluating/translating military vets skills for civilian positions; military spouses’ impact (to the economy/workforce); tax credit for hiring veterans; types of career fields available through the military; military culture; information on wounded warriors and career programs; psychometric work skills; and best practices for hiring veterans.
The City of Fayetteville, NC is home to Ft. Bragg, Pope Army Airfield, and approximately 48,000 military retirees. That number is growing with the drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Close by are Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and other military installations such as Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. Department of Social Work's Boots to Suits Conference is one of the leaders in the area with its mission to educate and train organizations and businesses to help them adopt military hiring practices and start veteran hiring initiatives. Additionally, during the 2013 National Media Summit and HBCU Awards Ceremony honoring Historically Black Colleges and Universities the Department of Social Work at Fayetteville State University received the 2013 HBCU Award for Best Social Work Program from the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, Inc.
The first Boots to Suits conference took place in 2012. In the past couple of years, we have been continously marketing the conference to reach out more organizations and businesses to increase the awareness of value of our veterans. The conference has been sponsored by various businesses. Our goal is to reach HR professionals and hiring managers not only in the State of North Carolina but in South Carolina, Virgina, and Washing DC area. The project works closely with Veteran’s Outreach Program, Office of Veteran’s Affairs, National Organization on Disability and private businesses.
Boots to Suits Conference was started in Fayetteville, North Carolica. The conference will be will take place in the Research Triangle, NC in 2014. In order to reach more populations, 2015 conference is proposed to be offered in Charlotte, NC. The conference can easily be replicated and we will assist any organization who would like help veterans find employment nationwide with networking, data, and information.
Evaluation questionairres are distributed to participants specific to each workshop during the conference. A post-conference evaluation questionaire is provided to participating businesses and organizations as a follow-up a few months after the conference. Our goal is to get as many veterans as possible hired without regard to their physical and mental disabilities and have organizations and businesses start initiatives on veteran recruitment programs.  By helping our veterans in finding employment through educating employers on the value of our nation’s heroes, we assist in reducing the stigma of their mental disabilities. This may enable to reduce further incident of suicide and related antecedents to stressors that may cause PTSD and other relevant mental illness.