Blackstone to hire 50,000 vets

April 30, 2013, 6:57 PM UTC
Fortune

FORTUNE — Here’s something I don’t say too often: Thank you Steve Schwarzman.

This morning, The Blackstone Group (BX) announced a commitment to hire 50,000 U.S. military veterans over the next five years, across its portfolio companies. This is part of the broader Joining Forces initiative led by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden (who discuss their efforts here).

Blackstone CEO Schwarzman tells me that the idea was first broached during a recent Business Roundtable meeting, which both he and Michelle Obama attended. “She spoke to us about the difficulties that many veterans face finding jobs, and also had people there from DoD and the Department of Labor,” Schwarzman explains. “I have a lot of sympathy with veterans’ issues – 28 vets per day are committing suicide — and spent time thinking about what we at Blackstone could do.”

The result is this pledge, which will be formally rolled out to Blackstone’s portfolio companies next week during its annual CEO summit.

Sandy Ogg, a Blackstone operating partner who used to run HR for Unilever, says the 50,000 figure is very realistic. “We’ve already begun speaking with the CEOs of our larger companies, like Hilton which hires 20,000 people per year in the U.S. And Allied Barton, the second largest security company that last year hired 4,100 vets among the 20,000 people it hired.”

He adds that Allied Barton told him that military veterans have been found to make better managers, and have less “churn.”

As some readers know, my wife J is a clinical psychologist whose research focus is suicide and depression prevention among returning vets. She doesn’t usually bring her work home with her, but she has expressed frustration over the lack of employment opportunities for many of those with whom she works.

Hopefully other large private equity firms follow Blackstone’s lead, so that those returning from war are better able to find peace at home.

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