The U.S. Department of Labor recently reported that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 military veterans dropped to 4.2 percent in 2017 – one of the lowest rates since 2007. And while much is being done to support our nation’s most recent veterans, many steps still need to be taken to remove the roadblocks to employing those who fought for our country.
My journey working closely with veterans began nearly four years ago when Mark Testoni, president and CEO of SAP National Security Services (NS2) came to me with the idea to recruit, train and find employment for post-9/11 veterans through the program now known as NS2 Serves. I admit, at the time, I was skeptical about hiring them and didn’t understand how our service members fit into the larger civilian workforce.
Closing the gap between veterans and employment
While thousands of veterans are currently battling unemployment, we must make sure to focus on those who are struggling the most. While it’s true that some former military officers are struggling to find their place in the civilian landscape, most unemployed veterans served as enlisted individuals. Therefore, they may lack a college degree and the traditional skillset that many employers are seeking across private sector industries.
But many veterans do have real-world experience in booming industries like communications and engineering. And often they’ve acquired those skills under pressures well beyond the civilian world’s understanding. That kind of training translates directly into careers here at home.
Perfecting the transition process
Before we can begin to close the gap in veteran unemployment, we must figure out how to most effectively transition veterans to civilian life. The process starts with developing a thorough method for locating veterans who need assistance. Right now, there are more veteran assistance programs than you can count, and even more who need help. Many of these programs offer specific veteran training and services, but fail to reach their target participants effectively or quickly enough.
Many veterans return home after being discharged to reconnect with their family and friends, but struggle to make a clear transition after those reunions have ended and everyday life resumes. It’s during this time that many veterans become bogged down with debt, depression and other factors that further affect their ability – and motivation – to move into the civilian workforce.
Veterans are an asset – in more ways than one
Simply put – veterans are motivated. We see article after article detailing why veterans make great employees, and they are all correct.
Private sector companies have a lot to gain from hiring our nation’s heroes. In most cases, veterans have spent several years in a structured and disciplined environment. The ways veterans approach problems or tasks are always mission-driven, with the ultimate goal being success. So, when a company hires a veteran they are not only hiring a dedicated employee, but also someone who takes their job requirements and the goals of the company and treats them as his or her mission.
Transitioning veterans provide an untapped pool of talent that companies can begin utilizing as soon as their military service comes to an end. Military veterans from all branches, ranks and occupations possess unique skillsets that cannot be matched by civilian employees.
• Teachability – Military veterans have proven their ability to learn new skills, even in times of enormous pressure. The private sector has a lot to gain by investing in programs that take the time to train and educate veterans in the skills and concepts needed to perform in any given industry.
• Adaptability – Imagine the situations military veterans have been in during their time of service. The ability to adapt on the fly is a skill that the private sector can put to use.
• Responsibility – Employers value responsibility – a characteristic that all veterans carry on their sleeves, as they have all been responsible for the lives of their fellow soldiers.
• Comfort in risk – In addition to the ability to take responsibility for their actions, veterans are also more likely to push the envelope. Overcoming adversity is something that many veterans faced every day on the battlefield, and they can apply those skills to a civilian business setting.
Giving back to those who have already given so much for this country starts with a cultural change. We must modify the way we in the private sector think about veterans and their skillsets. Veterans possess skills that cannot be matched by those of us who have not served. Equipping our veterans with industry-specific expertise and educating hiring teams about the true ROI of veteran employees are two great ways to begin embarking on a path towards zero percent veteran unemployment.
The opinions expressed are those of Ms. Carmack, who is not affiliated with APG Media.