Building a stronger workforce through increased veteran outreach has lowered the veteran unemployment rate, yet there are many roadblocks to employment for the nearly 250,000 servicemembers expected to enter civilian life each year.
The expert panelists at our Dallas Town Hall in October said the continuing mission is to remove these barriers through retraining programs and apply innovative solutions which capitalize on veterans’ skills and improve communication between the veteran and employer.
Ahead of Veterans Day this Saturday, WorkingNation presents our series of short videos about boosting the employment opportunities for this valuable but overlooked workforce. They were taken from our Town Hall: Keeping America’s Promise which was filmed for TV broadcast by co-host Hiring America at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. This 30-minute special will be distributed by Hiring America via syndication and the Armed Forces Network.
The following excerpts feature ideas shared by our panelists, including the former Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey Jr. (Ret.) and representatives from Home Builders Institute, AT&T, IBM, 7-Eleven, Texas Workforce Commission, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Bush Military Service Initiative and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
Leading off is moderator Stephanie Sy discussing with Gen. Casey the importance of the GI Bill for veterans to attain a college education or workforce training. Since 1944, the GI Bill has uplifted millions through free tuition and the post-9/11 GI Bill update has allowed veterans to access other career pathways.
IAVA spokesperson Maria Terry shared her own personal experience with her difficulty in communicating her military background to employers in the human resource industry. She was treated as an entry-level employee despite having performed similar tasks during her Army service. SHRM’s Andrew Morton explained how employers are learning to embrace these skills instead of them being lost in translation.
7-Eleven VP of Franchising Systems Larry Hughes said that his own transition out of the military showed him how the leadership skills of veterans have a direct correlation in the civilian workforce. These skills, Hughes said, are adding value to 7-Eleven and making the company stronger. AT&T VP of Talent Acquisition Jason Oliver added that hiring veterans increase AT&T’s drive for inclusivity.
Commissioner Ruth Hughs of the Texas Workforce Commission said that her state is improving the visibility of veteran hiring through its We Hire Vets program. She added that Texas has multiple programs which address skills building and workforce training which accommodate veterans’ current skill sets.
Terry revealed that the unemployment rate for women veterans is higher than men, a problem which the IAVA is working to resolve. She said that providing equal and adequate resources for women must be part of the overall discussion.
DAV’s Jeff Hall said his organization provides a free resource for employers to help them accommodate disabled veterans. He said DAV is working to reverse the narrative about veterans, whether they have visible wartime scars or invisible ones like Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Home Builders Institute CEO John Courson added that his company’s workforce training initiative affords the opportunity to actively assess veterans’ capabilities as they transition civilian construction jobs.
Nicole Gardner, VP of IBM Global Business Services said IBM’s Veterans Employment Initiative is assisting veterans in their job search capabilities with the development of a phone application powered by IBM’s Watson and the Find Your Fit tool. Gardner noted that IBM is creating this solution in conjunction with the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and federal job search board USAJobs.gov to match veteran skills with demands of the job market. She gave the audience a sneak peek of the application in action.
Veterans are also using credentialing programs such IBM’s i2 in-classroom training course. Gardner said. Her company hires veterans out of this IT training program, which more than 500 have completed. This is one of many nationwide programs which cater to new veterans or ones who have completed their college studies, according to Jeff Cleland of the Bush Military Service Institute.
***** For more from the Dallas Town Hall, watch Hiring America’s episode via YouTube, website or on television starting on Dec. 15. To see if Hiring America is available in your local television market: click here. *****Join the Conversation: Tell us your ideas for increasing job opportunities for veterans on our Facebook page.