Veterans Day is the day we honor the men and women who have served their country.† Much attention is given to their years of active duty, but what about after? Transition to civilian life can be challenging after the military for both the soldiers and their families.† How hard it is depends on many things, including their length of service, why they joined the military in the first place, and their gender.
This is particularly true when it comes to finding work.
The unemployment rate for veterans remains higher than the national average. While the rate has fluctuated since the beginning of the recession, it has been more difficult for veterans to find work than other segments of society.† Itís particularly hard for the younger veterans, many of whom joined the military due to lack of jobs in their home town, only to return to those same towns at the end of the service to find that jobs still do not exist.
It is also harder for women.
Female veterans have a more difficult time transitioning to civilian life.† In the October 2013 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, non-veteran women had an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, whereas the rate for veteran women was 8.0 percent. This was higher than both the national average and the rate for veteran men. This is particularly alarming considering that women currently make up 10 percent of the armed services and that is expected to only continue.
A recent survey by Monster Worldwide, Inc. (parent company of Monster.com), suggests that female veterans do not share the confidence of their male counterparts when it comes to their military skills and abilities. They are more likely to feel that the experience and training they received in the military are less developed, and more importantly, less relevant to the private sector.† The survey didnít go into detail as to why they feel this way, but on the relevancy point, they may not be too far off.
In 2011, President Obama signed the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act (VOW).† Dubbed the ďVOW to Hire Heroes Act,Ē the laws allow for tax credits for veterans that have been unemployed for at least four weeks. The tax credits increase when the veteran has been unemployed for six months or longer, as well as if they are disabled. It also increased funding for the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) which provides financial assistance for further training, including higher education.
Several companies have committed to the private sector goal of hiring at least 100,000 veterans by 2020. Companies including JP Morgan Chase, Boeing, Walmart and Starbucks have all vowed to give priority to veterans in the hiring process and welcome them into the private sector.
The transition has not been as smooth as desired, though.
One of the interesting issues that have come up for many veterans is how to transfer their military experience onto a job application. If youíre applying at Walmart for an assistant manager position, how does a Navy veteran who worked as a HT Hull Maintenance Technician describe exactly what he does? How does an Electronic Warfare Technician in the Army explain exactly how her experience is relevant to a position at JP Morgan Chase?
The truth is, the relevancy of their experience is getting lost in translation.
Starbucks staff attorney Rob Porcarelli understands this dilemma. As a Navy prosecutor in the 1990s, it was less difficult to explain what he did during his military service. He knows this is not the case for everyone, as does Starbucks board member Robert Gates, the former U.S. Defense Secretary.† They know that much of what is learned in the military is not only relevant, but highly useful in the private sector. This is why Starbucks will have a recruiter that understands military training heading up their service member hiring program.
For those who arenít working with a hiring manager that understands the transferability of military experience, there is always the Military Skills Translator offered by Military.com.† A former soldier can simply input her military job title and get an† accurate way to describe her duties in terminology the private sector understands.
While these programs may have made a dent in the unemployment numbers for veterans, flaws in the law could be preventing the numbers from going lower. The tax benefits donít apply until after a veteran has been unemployed for a certain amount of time Ė the longer the unemployment the better the tax credit, which is incentive for companies to delay hiring. This leaves many veterans waiting for the perfect time to be hired. Furthermore, there is still a risk that many that the jobs offered by these companies are starting at the bottom of the corporate ladder, making the veterans overqualified.
For these men and women, their military service was their entry level job. On this Veterans Day and every day thereafter, that is something that should be honored — with a position worthy of their experience.