By Debbie Gregory.
American military Veterans spent years working for one of the greatest employers, doing one of the most demanding jobs. These resourceful men and women manned self-sustaining cities at sea, built new towns from rubble, and liberated countries, all while sustaining the utmost level of professionalism. Veterans were members of an elite workforce that organized, delegated and operated independently, while still adhering to orders from above their pay-grade. The experience that Veterans gained while working in the military should make Veteran job seekers highly sought after by employers. But there are currently over a quarter of a million Veterans unable to find work. With all of their experience, why was the November 2013 unemployment rate for Post-9/11 Veterans at 9.9%?
One reason could be the current translation of work experience. Today’s Veterans find themselves in the civilian job market with medals, training certificates, and years spent following and giving orders– but no civilian work experience.
State and local government agencies hinder Veteran employment when most military certifications aren’t recognized, once a Veteran is out of uniform. Service members spend their entire military careers gaining experience and earning qualifications. Thousands of military members held military licenses for operating equipment (tractors, forklifts, firearms, etc.), driving buses, truck driving, as well as many medical/dental certifications. Why are those qualifications rendered null and void, once that person separates from the military? Being able to carry over a license and recognized experience would mean easier access to civilian jobs for Veterans.
Applicants with no work experience, even Veterans, are considered risky hires by employers. And on paper, Veterans have no work experience. There is an obvious language and cultural barrier that exists between those who have a military background and those who do not. These barriers prevent Veteran job seekers to accurately list their qualifications. These barriers also prevent employers from recognizing a Veteran’s experience. Employers should honor a Veteran’s service by honoring the Veteran’s military work experience. This should include employers educating themselves as to how military experience can equate to Veterans being a low-risk hire for them. Employers should utilize this resource of disciplined workers who have two to four plus years of experience in mission accomplishment. Companies that implement this sort of practice would do well by hiring Veterans to help them in this process by learning which jobs and pay-grades do what.
At the same time, service members should receive more realistic training on how to succeed after the military. Education and vocational training give Veterans an edge. But earning a Bachelor’s degree no longer puts a job seeker at the top of a hiring list, even if that job seeker is a Veteran. Today, a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t even guarantee a Veteran a place on the bottom of that list. The benefits that Veterans receive are wonderful and necessary, but with a 10% unemployment rate, are they enough?
With an unemployment level that remains two to three percent higher than the civilian population, it’s obvious that we aren’t doing enough to employ today’s Veterans. Over the next few years, the Defense Department projects that there will be over a million service members separating from the armed forces. Unless we begin to recognize the severity of the issue, our unemployment rate for Veterans could rise even higher. Finding ways to recognize military work experience would have an immediate impact on the Veteran unemployment rate. Remember, Veterans are not honored because of who they are, but because of what they’ve done. Honor their service by recognizing Veterans’ work experience.