Dwight Chustz has an immense appreciation for those serving in the military, while Victor Wright spent 22 years of combined active duty and reserve military service in the U.S. Air Force.
The lives of these two TransCanada employees converged when they discovered a mutual passion for supporting military veterans seeking employment and current TransCanada employees who served in the National Guard or Reserves. And both were recently recognized, along with TransCanada, for this commitment to serving the country.
Earlier this month, TransCanada was the first recipient of the new Secretary’s Award created by David LaCerte, interim Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, as a way to recognize companies for support of military veterans in our communities. TransCanada also received the Above and Beyond Award, while Chustz was presented with the Patriotic Employer Award.
“Dwight and the team implementing our military veteran strategy have made tremendous strides to increase TransCanada’s visibility with returning veterans and to support employees who continue to serve,” said Vern Meier, TransCanada’s vice president of U.S. pipeline operations, who accepted the awards on behalf of the company at the March 6 ceremony in Lafayette, La. “Their efforts have benefited TransCanada by increasing the number of skilled military veterans we hire, and have cemented relationships with the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.”
The Patriotic Employer Award and the Above and Beyond Award publically recognize American employers who provide extraordinary support and cooperation to employees who continue to serve in the national guard and reserve, and who go above and beyond the legal requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
TransCanada’s veteran strategy
Veterans now make up about 10 per cent of the U.S. Pipelines Operations workforce and our Gulf Coast Pipeline Project has hired dozens of veterans as contractors. Once approved, Keystone XL will also employ additional skilled and qualified veterans.
“Vern initially planted the seed of what became part of our initiative for resource strategy,” said Chustz, TransCanada’s director of operations programs. “My gut told me that if we wanted to get serious about this, we would want to get as close as we could to the veterans’ administration.”
Chustz’s initial phone call to a contact in Veterans Affairs launched an ongoing relationship that has increased TransCanada’s visibility with military veterans across the country.
“They were surprised and delighted that we reached out to them. We began sharing information including access to military job descriptions. From the beginning we knew there was a win-win. Veterans possess specialized training, discipline and maturity – the things we need to look for in our new employees.”
TransCanada job postings are now distributed through the Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program, not just to Louisiana, but to other states where jobs may be relevant and Dwight’s team continues to work with Veterans Affairs to expand opportunities to increase TransCanada’s exposure.
“It’s really a team effort that led to these awards,” he says, adding that Yael Iffergan, a senior recruiter for TransCanada, and Victor Wright have been instrumental in pushing the program forward.
Retired, but still active
Wright, TransCanada’s associate general counsel and director, human resources and immigration law, retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel and Air Force judge advocate last December.
“I want to remain a part of the recruitment efforts TransCanada has made in the U.S. to recruit talented military members into our organization,” Victor said. “The military’s emphasis on teamwork, integrity and selflessness is great preparation for civilian careers, and our company would greatly benefit from the expertise that exists among current and transitioning military veterans.”
TransCanada has already committed $1 million to help Canadian military veterans and reservists transition to civilian work through the Helmets to Hard Hats (H2H) program and would like to identify a similar opportunity in the United States.
Wright can personally vouch for TransCanada’s support for reservists and veterans from his own experiences balancing military and civilian responsibilities. A graduate of the elite U.S. Air Force Academy, he went on to law school before pursuing life in the private sector. He joined TransCanada five years ago.
“Not once did I ever receive any pushback from my TransCanada leader or business clients about my absence from the workplace to perform military duty,” he recalled. “In fact, whenever folks found out that I was still responding to TransCanada business issues while away from the office performing military duty, they respected my time and attempted to minimize any interference their demands may then have had on my military service.”
Wright also believes his military background has also been an asset at TransCanada.
“The Air Force values of integrity first, service before self and excellence have shaped and formed who I am today and instilled in me qualities and characteristics that I apply daily in my work at TransCanada, which has similar values,” he said. “Also key from my military experience is the ability to handle stress and remain calm under pressure. That skill has come in handy in my job at TransCanada!”