Veterans Day 2011: A Closer Look at the Challenges and Opportunities Veterans Face

November 10th, 2011 Comments off

Honoring World War II Veterans, 1945Tomorrow, on Veterans Day 2011, we take time to honor the scores of men and women who have fought for our freedoms. While we often honor our military veterans with words, how can we make a difference by taking action on some of those words? A great way for businesses to take the lead on this is by hiring a veteran. This Veterans Day is an opportune time for all of us to take a closer look at the strengths veterans bring to the workplace and discuss ways to help tackle the challenges many face — and a new CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,800 hiring managers helps us do just that.

What kinds of challenges are veterans facing?

Well, as of October 2011, more than 850,000 veterans were unemployed, and the jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans was 12.1 percent — well over the national average. This problem isn’t going away, but instead becoming more of a challenge: According to whitehouse.gov, more than 1 million service members are projected to leave the military between 2011 and 2016.

Veterans’ skills are often highly specialized, and it is sometimes difficult for them to determine how to translate those skills to those that employers are seeking in a civilian workplace environment.

Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America, has some advice for veterans struggling to reconnect and adapt to a civilian workforce:

“The survey shows that employers recognize the unique value military experience can bring, but that they don’t always understand how military skills fit into corporate America. Veterans will need to clearly make that connection in their resume, cover letter and job interviews as they enter this new chapter of their careers.”

New job resources for veterans

Resources are popping up everywhere to help veterans adjust to their new civilian lives and find jobs. In New Brunswick, NJ, for example, veterans are learning to release stress, heal, and adapt to civilian life through music classes, and CareerBuilder has recently launched a job site matching military veterans and employers, EmployVets.com. Exclusively for veterans returning to the job force, the site includes a tool for discovering how one’s military skills translate to the civilian world, career advice and resources, and much more. Sites like VETransfer are aimed at helping veterans with an entrepreneurial streak start their own businesses by connecting them with financing and equipping them with the necessary resources to get their venture started.

Veterans who believe they have a skills gap hindering their job search can also participate in the CareerBuilder Re-Employment Initiative, a paid internship program aimed at helping veterans and unemployed job seekers bridge the IT skills gap. This paid program will consist of several weeks of classroom training followed by up to six months of on-the-job, hands-on training with an assigned CareerBuilder software developer. Interested?  See the job description and apply here.

For veterans coming off active duty: How can you increase opportunities for employment?

  • Speak their language. Two in five employers (41 percent) reported it can be difficult to decipher how military experience fits into civilian positions. It’s important to highlight specific military skills and spell out how they are relevant to the responsibilities listed in the employer’s job ad. For example, if you served in the infantry, there are many relatable skills for police or security guard positions or for training roles within organizations.
  • Advertise your experience. More than one-in-four employers (27 percent) said one of the biggest challenges in recruiting U.S. veterans for open positions is that veterans don’t always market their military experience. Include your military experience with a bulleted list of accomplishments that shows how you put your knowledge into action.

Government initiatives

The White House is doing something about the employment challenge veterans face — and many businesses are following suit. President Obama has just announced several initiatives to help unemployed military veterans, including the Veteran Gold Card, which gives the more than 200,000 unemployed 9/11 veterans access to enhanced services like six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling at career centers across the country.

He is also currently urging members of Congress to pass two provisions to the American Jobs Act that will provide tax credits to businesses that hire military veterans: 1) The “Returning Heroes Tax Credit,” which provides firms that hire unemployed veterans with a maximum credit of $5,600 per veteran, and the “Wounded Warriors Tax Credit,” which offers firms that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities with a maximum credit of $9,600 per veteran.

Some businesses are taking the lead

More good news: Despite battling a higher-than-average unemployment rate, those returning from military duty and re-entering the workforce may find better employment prospects over the next year:

  • One in five (20 percent) employers reported they are actively recruiting U.S. veterans to work for their organizations over the next 12 months
  • 14 percent of employers are actively recruiting members of the National Guard.

Which industries offer the best options for veteran hiring?

Employers are planning to tap into the technical and communications skills and leadership abilities of U.S. service men and women. More than one-third of employers plan to hire for Information Technology positions, which topped the list of hot areas for hiring U.S. veterans.

  • Information Technology – 36 percent
  • Customer Service – 28 percent
  • Engineering – 25 percent
  • Sales – 22 percent

Why hire a veteran?

We’ve talked in the past about the multitude of reasons your business should be hiring veterans, and as President Obama said when referring to veterans’ wide range of skills, “This is exactly the kind of leadership and responsibility that every American business should be competing to attract.”

With their military background, extensive training, specialized skills and breadth of experience, veterans bring many unique elements to the workforce.  A few that you may not have considered:

  1. Trustworthiness: Many military personnel have achieved some level of security clearance, demonstrating that he or she is recognized as a trustworthy person.
  2. Background checks: With an honorable discharge, service members are essentially certified drug-free, and they have already had to go through rigorous background checks to be admitted into the military.
  3. Dealing with high stress-situations: Veterans know the importance of deadlines, and they’re accustomed to being in high-stress situations and trained to deal appropriately and effectively. Though civilian workplaces offer different types of pressures, there’s likely nothing you can throw at them that’s more high stress than situations they’ve encountered while serving.
  4. Tech savvy and international awareness: Veterans, because of the necessity to be aware of global affairs, are often one step ahead of many other workers when it comes to IT knowledge or the latest business trend or international security issue — not to mention IT training and hands-on skills.

CareerBuilder asked employers who have hired U.S. veterans or members of the National Guard to list the top attributes military personnel brought to their organization.

The following assets topped the list:

  • Disciplined approach to work – 66 percent
  • Ability to work as a team – 65 percent
  • Respect and integrity – 58 percen
  •  Leadership skills – 56 percent
  • Problem-solving skills – 54 percent
  • Ability to perform under pressure – 53 percent
  • Communication skills – 45 percent
In addition to the many skills and talents veterans bring to the workplace, hiring veterans can improve a business’s bottom line. Tools like HireGauge from Think Beyond the Label, a public-private partnership dedicated to increasing jobs for disabled people, helps businesses large and small crunch numbers to figure out exactly how much of a monetary benefit hiring people with disabilities will bring. A typical business can realize monetary benefits of nearly $32,000 per hire -– and even more for hiring a qualified veteran with a disability.

 What veteran job initiatives have you read about — or are you a part of — that are exciting to you? Is your business taking steps to hire veterans or help them re-acclimate to the workforce?