Nov 11, 2021

Breaking down barriers for veterans

How mentorship and internship programs are making a difference for Medtronic veterans

With 16 years in the military, two master’s degrees and a handful of certifications, Justin Furlong was sure he would make a smooth transition into a civilian career. But he quickly realized that wasn’t the case.

“Everyone I talked to said I had no real experience,” he said. “I knew I had to start over.”

And he’s not the only one. Veterans in the United States are 37% more likely than nonveterans to be underemployed.

Now, as an HR director and Veteran’s Employee Resource Group leader, Justin is helping other U.S. veterans — inside and outside of Medtronic.

SkillBridge, one of the programs he helped bring to Medtronic, provides military personnel with Department of Defense-paid internships in the final six months of their service. 

Medtronic became an authorized SkillBridge company last year and offers 91- to 120-day internships in eight states.

“This is a program that makes sure other veterans don’t have to start at the bottom,” Justin said. “We shouldn’t have to start over.”

adding value
JD Crandell in Afghanistan (left) and at home office (right)

With nine years of military experience in cyber security, Jake (JD) Crandell was hoping he wouldn’t have to start at the bottom. That’s what drew him to SkillBridge. What drew him to Medtronic was a desire to help people. He was also impressed with how the internship here was structured. 

“I was looking for something hands on,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in a classroom environment for three months. I just wanted to start working immediately.”

And he did. He was offered a role in cyber security two weeks before his internship ended.

Our support for veterans goes back to the very beginning of the company. Co-founder Earl Bakken served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. Today, more than 1,200 military veterans currently work at Medtronic in the U.S. alone. 

We actively recruit veterans and provide paid time off for them to fulfill their military reserve obligations. If reservists get deployed, Medtronic holds their jobs for up to five years and continues to pay their salaries and benefits.

It’s these efforts that earned us the prestigious Freedom Award, the highest honor a U.S. company can receive for supporting employees currently serving in the National Guard and reserves. 

Breaking down barriers beyond Medtronic

We’re also taking care of veterans outside our four walls. Our unwavering commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity means working toward zero barriers to opportunity — including addressing systemic inequities in our communities.

That’s exactly the idea behind our work with American Corporate Partners, a nonprofit that helps returning veterans and active-duty spouses find careers through one-on-one mentoring, networking and online career advice. 

We became a company partner two years ago and now have 50 employees mentoring military members across the country in their last 18 months of service. 

It’s been meaningful for Adam Grover, a Medtronic employee of 32 years.

“I’ve reached a point in my life and career where there are two main reasons I’m still working: To feel like I’m making a difference and to develop talent,” he said. 

He’s gotten both out of his mentorship with Ethan Clouse, an army engineer of seven years who now works at a construction engineering firm. 

When he got a job offer, Adam was the first person Ethan called after his wife. 

“You have a lot of people who look at you and say thank you for your service, but to have somebody dedicate a portion of their life and invest some time in you, that alone makes everything feel worth it,” Ethan said. 

Learn more about how inclusion, diversity, and equity play a critical role at Medtronic.