Veterans Find Challenges In Nailing The Right Job
by: Troops to Trades
April 29, 2016
By Eric Eversole
Five years ago, the headlines on veteran unemployment were grim. “Unemployment crisis among veterans spurs call to action in Congress,” read one. “Unemployment for Young Vets: 30%, and Rising,” warned another. In the midst of two wars, America’s veterans were in trouble at home.
Today, veteran unemployment rates flirt with record lows. Even the youngest post-9-11 veterans no longer face dauntingly large gaps separating them from civilian counterparts.
Yet despite the significant, sustained decline in the national veteran unemployment rate, Florida’s veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses still face numerous challenges. Florida’s 2015 veteran unemployment rate of 5.4 percent lagged the national average, and the demand for job fairs, employment workshops and other training opportunities remains high, especially in Orange County, where more than 60,000 veterans and their families reside.
The unemployment rate alone doesn’t capture the importance of providing employment support and resources for Florida’s veterans. We also have to plan around the aspirational interests of the 250,000 service members annually transitioning out of the military for the next four years who will be searching for jobs. It doesn’t capture the men and women with years of training in medicine, logistics, information systems and other essential fields who are unemployed or underemployed, while Florida businesses search for skilled workers. And it certainly doesn’t capture the desire that many share to transfer to a new, more rewarding job.
The declining unemployment rate has also shone a spotlight on specific communities that face additional challenges to gaining employment.
Military spouses, who must cope with unique challenges supporting their service members’ careers and work around constant moves, face enduring unemployment rates of 20 percent to 30 percent and underemployment rates up to 90 percent.
Wounded warriors with significant disabilities continue to face an unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent, both overall and within the post-9-11 generation.
A huge population of “hidden heroes” — the estimated 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers who help support wounded warriors — has unique job needs and requirements that require targeted support and education of employers.
And with record numbers of veterans using their GI Bill benefits and delaying their entry into the work force, there is an ongoing need to be ready to help student veterans scattered at institutions across the country find jobs upon graduation.
The job search for Florida veterans is never simple or easy. Some veterans are not sure of who they are — or who they can be — outside of the uniform. A former infantryman may not understand the full breadth of options available upon entering the civilian world.
A survey on the success of veterans in their first job after the military, conducted by the Institute for Veterans and Military Affairs at Syracuse University, found that the No. 1 cause of the high attrition rate of these men and women is that they simply did not understand what it meant to work in that particular field. They were not informed consumers when they chose that job.
Like every new or tough situation they dealt with in the military, veterans will rise to this occasion — but they don’t have to do it alone.
Hiring Our Heroes, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, has hosted nearly 1,000 hiring events for veterans in the past five years. This Saturday, we’ll be back in Orlando at the U.S. Army Reserve Center, hosting a veteran employment workshop and hiring fair for all area veterans, transitioning service members and spouses.
Yet, no matter how many events we host, veterans will still have to overcome personal challenges.
The best advice I can give to transitioning service members, veterans or spouses looking for opportunities in Orlando is to prepare for the search like they would prepare for any mission. Identify the objective, and develop a strategic plan to achieve it. They should do their recon and gather all pertinent information on their target industries, companies and jobs. They should prepare their resumes and their power speeches, and find mentors who understand their experiences and can help them through the process. Once all of their information, resources and experts are in order, they can move to execute. Execute, execute, execute.
We all agree that once veterans find the right jobs, they make great employees. But many of the more than 780,000 veterans actively participating in Florida’s work force are still on a journey to learn new employment skills and meet employers who want to hire them because — not in spite — of their service, skills and training.