April 26 (UPI) -- Worldwide hotel chain Hilton on Wednesday announced plans to hire 20,000 additional U.S. military veterans and their family members within the next four years.
The plan is part of Operation: Opportunity, which also provides employment and training assistance to veterans' relatives, dependents and caregivers.
Hilton said it surpassed its original goal of hiring 10,000 vets two years ahead of schedule.
"Military veterans and their families have made incredible sacrifices for our country, and we are strongly committed to ensuring they have great jobs when they return home from service," Hilton CEO Christopher J. Nassetta said in a news release. "We've always felt strongly about this issue since our founder Conrad Hilton himself was a military veteran, and we are very proud of our veteran team members who have contributed so much to our company."
Operation: Opportunity provides flexible work opportunities and employment continuity for service members during long deployments. The company has also developed internship programs and on-the-job training for vets and their families.
Hilton is also partnering with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation for remote working by military caregivers in reservations and customer care, the company said.
"Our message to our veteran team members is simple: We value the leadership, integrity, teamwork and other skills you bring to the hospitality industry, and Hilton will do everything it can to support you in making a smooth transition to the civilian workforce," Hilton human resources chief Matt Schuyler said.
Schuyler added that the company has developed a coding system to match Hilton job codes with the Military Occupational Specialties code of every member of the U.S. military. It has a website dedicated to veterans for available jobs and other information.
"That gets the ball rolling helping them to figure out the comparable job set to the skills that they have," Schuyler told CNN.
Hilton also donates Honors Points for veterans to redeem for free hotel stays while seeking jobs, training or certifications with the hotel chain, or in another industry.
More than 300,000 people work for Virginia-based Hilton. Besides the Hilton name, its brands include Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Doubletree, Hampton, Homewood Suites, Embassy Suites and Hilton Grand Vacations.
Last year, the unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans -- military members who have performed active service since September 2001 -- was pegged last month by a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report at 5.1 percent. For all veterans, that figure was 4.3 percent. About 36 percent of Gulf War II vets had a service-connected disability last year, compared with 22 percent for all American veterans, the labor report noted.