Want to hire a veteran? Office of Veterans Services tells you how, and gives 10 reasons why you should

The anemic national economy and sluggish jobs outlook have hurt just about everyone but liquor manufacturers and repo men, but the pain has definitely not been shared equally.

Now, with the war in Afghanistan more than 10 years old and the Iraqi campaign winding down, a new problem is facing soldiers far away from the battlefield. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among post-9/11-era veterans (those who have left active duty since 2001) rose .4% in October, up to 12.1% from 11.7%. By contrast, the national unemployment rate ticked down .1% to an even 9%. In Wisconsin, the jobless rate among this category of veterans is around 13%.

Alarmed by these stubbornly high figures, the government is stepping up efforts to address the problem. The Obama administration recently announced the creation of a Veteran Gold Card, which entitles veterans to six months of counseling and case management at job centers across the country.

According to Gary Meyer, employment and training regional supervisor at the Division of Employment & Training/Office of Veterans Services in Wisconsin, this “gold card” will provide unemployed, post-9/11-era veterans with intensive service and follow-up that they can use to succeed in the current job market. Those services will include job readiness assessment, including interviews and testing, as well as an individualized employment plan, which will take into account each veteran’s skills and education and also address any barriers to employment they’re currently experiencing.

Of course, the high unemployment rate for recent veterans still begs the question: Why are they having more trouble finding work than the general population or older veterans? (The unemployment rate for all veterans actually fell in October from 8.1% to 7.7%, and remains below the overall national rate.)

“Some [veterans] went directly from high school into the military, and they may or may not have had any job experience before they went in the military. They certainly learned some valuable skills while they’ve been in the service, but they haven’t been exposed to the labor market.” – Gary Meyer, Office of Veterans Services

“Well, potentially, there are a number of reasons,” said Meyer. “Some of these individuals went directly from high school into the military, and they may or may not have had any job experience before they went in the military. They certainly learned some valuable skills while they’ve been in the service, but they haven’t been exposed to the labor market. They’re coming out of the military in a time when our economy is really having difficulty, and they’re facing the same difficulty as an individual that hadn’t been in the military and is coming back into unfamiliar situations.”

Also, said Meyer, many recent veterans are still simply trying to readjust to the civilian world.

“Sometimes there’s a period during which they need to adjust when they get back, and get reconnected with family and close friends, and so there may be a period where they’re just trying to sort out, ‘Where do I go now?’” said Meyer. “Also, there may be a situation where these individuals were exposed to combat situations, but they’re still sorting through in their mind, and they may need additional assistance to emotionally adjust. We have vet centers, for example, in the Madison area sponsored by the Veterans Administration. We have professional trained staff that are counselors that can deal directly with issues related to combat, so we make referrals to those support services as we meet veterans and we determine that there’s some need there.”

An invaluable experience

A recent CareerBuilder.com survey found that 20% of employers are actively recruiting veterans to work for them over the next 12 months. The survey also found that 27% of employers said one of the biggest challenges in veteran recruitment was that veterans often fail to market their military experience. Some might find that odd, considering that a majority of employers surveyed cited a disciplined approach to work, the ability to work as a team, leadership skills, and the ability to perform under pressure as being among the most important attributes in new hires – areas that most would consider a strength among veterans.

Indeed, many of those same attributes are noted in a list Meyer’s office has been circulating titled Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Veteran. The list reads, in part:

  1. Accelerated Learning Curve: Veterans have the proven ability to learn new skills and concepts.
  2. Leadership: The military trains people to lead by example as well as through direction.
  3. Teamwork: Veterans understand how genuine teamwork grows out of a responsibility to one’s colleagues.
  4. Diversity and Inclusion in Action: Veterans have learned to work side by side with individuals regardless of diverse race, gender, geographic origin, ethnic background, religion, and economic status.
  5. Efficient Performance Under Pressure: Veterans understand the rigors of tight schedules and limited resources.
  6. Respect for Procedures: Veterans have gained a unique perspective on the value of accountability.
  7. Technology and Globalization: Because of their experiences in the service, veterans are usually aware of international and technical trends pertinent to business and industry.
  8. Integrity: Veterans know what it means to do “an honest day’s work.”
  9. Conscious of Health and Safety Standards: Thanks to extensive training, veterans are aware of health and safety protocols both for themselves and the welfare of others.
  10. Triumph Over Adversity: In addition to dealing positively with the typical issues of personal maturity, veterans have frequently triumphed over great adversity.

For his part, Meyer sees an advantage in hiring someone who’s refined his or her skills in the highly demanding crucible of military training and service.

“There’s certainly an amount of maturity that’s taken place [among veterans] that you might not see in someone else,” said Meyer. “Young individuals coming out of high school or maybe a year or two out of technical school are now faced with a lot of responsibility, and they’re dealing with very expensive equipment, and in most cases, lives are at stake here, so there’s a lot of responsibility and accountability that they have, and that’s something you don’t normally see in an individual coming out of high school.”

Meyer says those employers who are interested in targeting veterans for employment need only contact the Wisconsin Job Center for assistance in posting job openings and finding out about opportunities for on-the-job training for veterans (which offer wage reimbursement to employers for up to 1,000 hours of training). The Office of Veterans Services also conducts job fairs and career fairs for veterans.

Despite the grim employment numbers for younger veterans, Meyer strikes an optimistic note when asked about the willingness among employers to hire job seekers with military experience.

“Just in my experience in supervising my staff, I’m seeing a lot of individual success, especially with smaller businesses, where our staff is able to work with a particular business and get a veteran into an employment situation,” said Meyer. “And we’re seeing a considerable amount of success in this area, so I am optimistic. I feel overall that our country and our employers value the sacrifice that military veterans have made. They’ve taken time away from their families to serve our country, and they’ve come back now in a time when the economy is tough, but employers are very eager to talk to veterans. They recognize the skill sets that are available, and they recognize the value of hiring a military veteran.”

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