Veteran Unemployment Down, but CA Still Facing Veteran Employment Challenges

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By Debbie Gregory.

The once-high unemployment rate among America’s military veterans has reversed course and is now lower than in the general population. The concerted national effort to address veteran employment, coupled with their sought-after essential skills training has likely had an effect on February’s national unemployment rate for veterans, down to 4.4 percent.

California, with the largest population of veterans, is still facing veteran employment challenges, and battling an unemployment rate for veterans that remains higher than the rate for the civilian population.

Chris Lu, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, said that helping veterans transition into civilian jobs remains “one of our highest commitments.”

Hiring veterans isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also good for the bottom line. The government is assisting in that arena by offering tax credits for employers who are hiring veterans.

Additionally, veterans can take advantage of both on-the-job (OJT) and apprenticeship training programs, available to veterans using their VA education benefits, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill. These programs allow Veterans to learn a trade or skill through training on the job participation rather than attending formal classroom instruction. And this isn’t just for the jobs often known for apprenticeship opportunities, such as plumbing and welding, but for healthcare jobs for veterans and high tech jobs for veterans as well.

Susan S. Kelly, who leads DoD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, said employers are seeking the professional “essential skills” ingrained in every veteran.

“Employers have been telling us the last 18 months, ‘We can train them in technical skills, but the [other skills] take years to develop,” Kelly said.

Those essential skills include leadership, ability to handle work stress, persistence, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, teamwork and team-building, oral and written communication, decision making, training people, supervising, critical thinking and project planning.

“The heads of corporations say they spend millions of dollars every year teaching their managers leadership skills,” she said, and employers have learned that veterans arrive at the workplace already equipped with these skills.

So why is California lagging? Lu said, “As we rightfully celebrate the success we’ve had, we need to understand that not all veterans have gained equal amounts. Younger veterans are an issue. That’s partly because the unemployment rate for young people generally is higher than it is for more experienced workers. Women veterans continue to face a variety of issues, not unlike women entering the workforce in general. There still remain challenges with veterans in terms of substance-abuse issues and mental-health issues.”