With veteran unemployment rates at record lows, companies have more competition than ever for top vet talent. So what do companies need to do to attract, retain and support military-connected employees?

That will be the focus of the first Employing U.S. Vets Conference, which will include panels and wide-ranging discussions centering on the challenges employers face and effective tactics they can use when pursuing veteran employees.

The conference will be cohosted by Military Times and VETS Indexes, a company that creates financial investment products based on the Military Times Best for Vets: Employers rankings.

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“We’re really looking to bring together the best practices of all industries and organizations … to share their tools, how they can collaborate, and to build some relationships among industry leaders,” said Nick Antaki, VETS Indexes’ director of marketing.

It will be held at the New York Athletic Club in New York City on May 30, 2019, and include representatives from the Defense Department, the West Point Association of Graduates, the Society for Human Resource Management and dozens of major companies, including Amazon, Capital One, Kaiser Permanente, Nike, Walmart and more.

Chris Cortez, Microsoft’s vice president of military affairs, will deliver a keynote address. The conference panels will include speakers like Carol Eggert, Comcast NBCUniversal’s senior vice president of military and veteran affairs and Liz O’Brien, senior director of the Military Spouse Program at Hiring Our Heroes, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation initiative.

Panel topics will include recruiting new veteran hires, helping employers understand how a veteran’s military experience translates to civilian jobs, retaining vet employees and supporting military families.

Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data showed that post-9/11 veteran unemployment in March 2019 was 3.1 percent and overall veteran unemployment was only 2.9 percent.

Karl Snyder, VETS Indexes’ chief marketing strategist and a Marine Corps veteran, emphasized the conference’s partnership with Veterans on Wall Street, an organization dedicated to helping employ veterans in the financial services industry.

He also highlighted the fact that Rosalinda Maury, the director of applied research and analytics at Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, will participate in one of the panels.

“We have other groups and people realizing that this is an important and serious event, where we’re talking about something important to a lot of people,” Snyder said.

Three Military Times employees will moderate panels: Christine Aquino, vice president of business operations with Sightline Media Group, the parent company of Military Times; Leo Shane, Military Times’ deputy editor; and George Altman, editor of the Military Times transition publication Rebootcamp.

Service members separating from the military have relied on the Military Times Best for Vets rankings for years, using them as a guide to land civilian jobs with companies that understand and appreciate their talents. The rankings are based on an exhaustive, 90-question survey that takes an in-depth look at companies’ vet recruiting, retention efforts, support for military families, culture and other factors.

“We’re very excited to announce Military Times’ first-ever veteran employment conference,” said Altman, who has worked on the Best for Vets rankings since 2012.

“For a decade, Military Times has surveyed companies on veterans employment, through our Best for Vets rankings,” Altman said. “This conference gives us — as well as Best for Vets companies — the chance to share best practices, so that more vets can find great post-military careers.”

Military Times will receive a portion of fees generated from investments in VETS Indexes products. However, the rankings on which the investment products are based are not controlled or influenced by VETS Indexes, participating companies or advertisers. The editorial independence of the rankings is guaranteed in a written contract.

Snyder and Antaki said they are looking forward to all the conversations featuring folks from many types of industries, who will all be gathered with the goal of trying to employ more veterans.

“I hope [companies] will have enough ammunition to walk away and feel comfortable enough to start their own veteran-hiring initiatives,” Snyder said.