Unemployment among US military veterans is substantially higher than that of working age civilians. In Los Angeles County alone, there are more than 43,000 unemployed veterans.
At the same time, there are nearly 45,000 nonprofit organizations throughout the country that work with veterans. Thousands of these organizations are dedicated to helping veterans transition from military to civilian life with the end goal of attaining employment. This is the good news.
The bad news is, many of these organizations are interested in putting veterans to work in the civilian sector without consideration of a living wage — which does not solve the problem. In fact, the repercussions can be more severe than one realizes.
It can lead to these veterans needing to seek out government assistance, facing the reality of becoming homeless or possibly contemplating suicide. The suicide rate for veterans is staggering, and the number of homeless veterans is also unacceptable.
Given this backdrop, it’s not enough for companies to establish “veteran hiring initiatives.” Yes, if implemented properly, a veterans hiring initiative is a great step toward decreasing veteran unemployment. Unfortunately, the issue with these initiatives presents a two-fold dilemma: On the one hand, a great percentage of these initiatives are created because it is the “right thing to do.” But most importantly, it is not the first step needed to ensure that veterans are employed at a living wage.
Preparing veterans. Veterans are highly skilled people. It is up to the staffing industry to adapt its HR policies and take a deeper look at how the industry fills jobs. By revising its approach, agencies can have access to a pool of talent with unique and valuable skill sets.
What is critical in this process is helping veterans prepare for the job search and qualify for the position before being considered by the company. The first step, therefore, in transitioning veterans into the civilian workforce is to prepare them for it.
The military has contracted with companies to assist in the transition of returning vets. A point to remember is however, many of these programs cannot effectively prepare veterans for the workforce in a one- or two-day workshop.
To that end, there are many nonprofit veteran service organizations that supplement these transition workshops. Some assist with résumés or interviewing skills. My organization, Silhouettes for VETS, takes a one-onone customized approach to educate, prepare and coach veterans through the hiring cycle in order to get a viable job.
The process. Staffing companies can work with organizations that empower veterans to navigate the hiring cycle including transition to civilian life, identifying companies and skill sets, the creation of a résumé, time management and interviewing techniques. There are some programs that address some of these requirements and others provide one or two elements. Some programs, such as Silhouettes for VETs, also include ongoing support after the veteran has secured employment.
Collaborating with other nonprofit veteran service organization allows companies and staffing firms to resolve issues faced by transitioning veterans. Here are just a few: The Salvation Army Haven helps address veteran homelessness, The Soldiers Project works with veterans struggling to reintegrate from military to civilian life and National Veterans Transition Services assists veterans as they move from military life to civilian life.
The goal. It’s on all of us to help transitioning veterans find employment in the civilian workforce. Through collaboration and better understanding of this ecosystem, all parties — including staffing firms — can better help to reduce veteran unemployment, and in the process, poverty and homelessness. This is a great opportunity to help the country and your business.