Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct information previously provided to Military Times. Edelman, not the DJ Edelman Family Foundation, is part of the roundtable.

More veterans who go to college after the military could find themselves with jobs waiting for them after they get their diplomas, thanks to a new program.

The national nonprofit Student Veterans of America announced today that it is launching the Business and Industry Roundtable, a coalition of 23 large companies that are committed to hiring student veterans.

“What (companies) have told us broadly is, ‘We want access to veteran talent. Student veterans are a relatively untapped pool. One hundred thousand a year are graduating, and up until now, we haven’t been paying attention to them as part of our student undergraduate recruiting or our veteran recruiting,’” said James Schmeling, executive vice president of SVA.

While SVA isn’t setting any specific vet hiring goals that companies must reach, each of the roundtable participants must commit to engage with SVA chapters, mentor student vets and hire them.

“This is really about the how-to and how does this fit into your existing commitments,” Schmeling said. “If somebody has said, ‘We’re going to hire 10,000 veterans’ – great. Let’s make sure student veterans are a part of that.”

The new program is different from other veteran hiring initiatives in that SVA is actually asking companies to wait a few years after the military transition before they start recruiting, he said.

The Roundtable originated in a partnership between SVA and Raytheon, which supports SVA to the tune of $5 million. Two and a half years ago, the Fortune 500 company invited SVA chapter members to events with its company network of 25- to 30-year-old employees. Schmeling said these events ranged from root beer float and “dunk the executives” fundraisers to resume workshops. Meanwhile, student veterans learned from their similar-aged peers – not recruiters or hiring managers – about the company culture and how they might go about landing a job in that field.

“Part of our support includes the opportunity to expose veterans to the career opportunities that exist in corporate America – and work with them to help them see themselves in those roles,” Pam Erickson, Raytheon’s vice president of global branding and corporate citizenship, said in an email. “By ensuring veterans are empowered to pursue their education and career goals, we all benefit.”

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The roundtable goes beyond companies advertising jobs for student veterans. It’s about building deep relationships with them, Schmeling said.

That approach worked for Jonathan Granata, a 29-year-old Air Force veteran who was hired last year by Accenture, one of the roundtable companies, while he was wrapping up a master’s degree at George Washington University. He attributes this mostly to the networking and mentorship opportunities he had with the global consulting firm through SVA.

Granata said he wasn’t ready for a civilian career right after the military and needed the time in college to prepare for a future in corporate America.

In addition to Accenture and Raytheon, the founding companies are Aetna, Amazon, BASF, Booz Allen Hamilton, Comcast/NBC Universal, Deloitte, Edelman, Edward Jones, First Data, Gartner, General Dynamics, JPMorgan Chase & Co., LinkedIn, LMI, Lockheed Martin, Meijer, Microsoft, Nestle, Prudential/PGIM, PwC and USAA.

They will meet periodically throughout the year to discuss how they’re engaging with student veterans. As part of this, companies may share the names of finalists not hired for positions at their own organizations who might be a better fit for other roundtable participants, Schmeling said.

“There are things that they can learn from each other across those companies,” he said. “Even if they’re not the company that hires the student veteran, if they’ve been investing and mentoring like others in the group, they will benefit.”

And even though Granata is no longer a student veteran, he’s grateful that the community has a support system outside of higher education.

“It’s nice knowing that people and companies understand what value we bring to the table,” he said. “We’re being seen as an asset. That’s important to me.”

Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.

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