At the Schultz Family Foundation, we’ve witnessed the transformative power of mentorship to unlock potential. While we can all benefit from the guidance mentors provide, the unique challenges that veterans, service members and their families face while navigating the transition to civilian life highlights the need for a deeper level of support for this population. We are honored to spotlight a promising new program that connects veterans with the supports and resources they need to find meaningful employment, fulfillment and community.

Every year, more than 200,000 veterans transition out of the military. Though they leave with impressive skills, translating their military experience to civilian employment can be difficult. According to a 2017 study by the Call of Duty Endowment and ZipRecruiter, while the rate of veteran employment has improved, veterans tend to have insular professional networks primarily consisting of other veterans, which limit their ability to land quality jobs. That’s why, in partnership with Bunker Labs, we’re bringing mentorship and career support resources to help veterans, service members and their families broaden their professional networks with the Bunker Connect program.

Bunker Connect event in Chicago

Bunker Labs launched the first Chicago event for Bunker Connect on October 30—capping a five-city launch of the new program that will scale to 12 cities in its first year. Nearly 100 veterans and transitioning service members, willing mentors from the Chicago community and stakeholders from the veteran service community attended the event. The evening included remarks from Todd Connor, CEO of Bunker Labs, and a series of engaging activities to encourage active networking in the room.

We witnessed authentic connections and mentorship relationships forged between transitioning service members and mentors from many diverse industries and sectors, including technology, finance, real estate and consulting—offering those seeking networking and mentorship resources the opportunity to explore a diverse range of potential fields.

Bunker Connect attendee reflection sheet

The spark created across the first five events not only validates the concept of having a reliable, ongoing network of resources, but also produces strong learnings for further collaboration on how to strengthen the program. In the first year of the program, Bunker Connect expects to connect veterans with more than 65 partner organizations and companies leading to more than 1,500 impactful mentorship connections. With growing interest from businesses and corporations in the Bunker Connect communities, we’re excited to harness this momentum to make meaningful impact for the veteran community.

We honor the men and women who have devoted their lives to uphold our freedom and the ideals of our nation. Their service and sacrifice are truly immeasurable. Veteran’s Day is a time to reflect on their sacrifice, but we believe it should also be an opportunity to work together to find new ways to ensure veterans find their purpose and their passion. Through initiatives like Bunker Connect, Onward to Opportunity, Hiring Our Heroes, and the PsychArmor transition school, we’re proud to support those who have given so much to our nation.