<< The Body Politic

Employing America’s veterans

Friday, July 20th, 2012

According to a recent report by the Center for a New American Security, veterans who served after September 11 are facing unemployment rates that are both higher than their civilian peers and higher than veterans from prior wars. For young veterans, the difference is especially stark: Veterans ages 18 to 24 face an unemployment rate of 23.5 percent–fully 10 percentage points higher than their nonveteran peers.

Margaret C. Harrell and Nancy Berglass, the authors of the report, interviewed officials from 69 different companies to better understand the relationship between veterans and businesses. They found that though many businesses say they would like to hire veterans, a major obstacle in their doing so is their challenge in understanding what the veteran actually did in the military and how those skills would benefit the civilian company. “Civilian employers do not always realize that military-specific jobs–such as machine gunner, tank drive or helicopter crew chief–have some components that are directly comparable to civilian environments,” they wrote.

As the New York Times recently reported, veterans are also having difficulty in helping the business world understand their skill-set:

Malcolm Byrd got out of the Marine Corps in 2003 and found work, first in a General Motors factory and then with a nonprofit group. But four months ago, he lost his job because of government budget cuts and has been job hunting since.

Telling potential employers that he was a Marine supply clerk who managed millions of dollars in Kevlar helmets and folding cots does not seem to have helped him find the management job he is seeking.

“I could run a warehouse, but they don’t put that on your DD-214,” said Mr. Byrd, 38, referring to the official document troops receive upon leaving service. “You do get skills in the military, but people don’t seem to understand that.”

In response, the Department of Veterans Affairs is now working with veterans to help them to better translate their military experience into marketable skills for the private sector. In June, the department hosted a hiring fair in Detroit, which was attended by more than 8,000 veterans. In addition to connecting veterans with potential employers, the department also provided workshops on how to create successful resumes and offered individual interview coaching. The event resulted in more than 1,300 jobs being offered to veterans.

Read CNAS’s full report, “Employing America’s Veterans: Perspectives from Business,” here. And for ways to support veterans and navigate the more than 40,000 nonprofit organizations who seek to assist veterans and their families, check out Nancy Berglass’s April report, “Investing in the Best: How to Support the Nonprofits That Serve Veterans, Service Members and Their Families,” here.