Veterans, transitioning service members and their families add unique value and perspective to today’s multigenerational workforce. Veterans should be highly valued members of the workforce, because they embody disciplined leadership, maturity and unwavering loyalty in the pursuit of excellence in both their personal and professional lives. As learning professionals, we can help veterans fully transition into the civilian workforce by equipping them with the skills they need to be successful.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 200,000 men and women transition out of the military each year — 200,000 veterans who face the challenges of translating their military experience into civilian careers. There is a bright spot: At 3.2%, the veteran unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2000. Although it is great to see veterans gain employment, their jobs often don’t fully align with their skills and qualifications; in a survey conducted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), 37% of veterans said they feel that they are underemployed.
There are many ways organizations can help solve this problem, including hiring, upskilling and reskilling veterans in an effort to translate their military experience into new roles. Organizations that want to bolster qualified veteran employment can take cues from institutions that have established initiatives to support this crucial demographic.
The Growing Opportunity for Veterans to Pursue Technology Careers
As technology continues to impact our lives and work, the need for niche expertise in targeted, expanding areas is rising. For example, Bloomberg found that Indeed.com job postings for data scientists rose by 75% from 2015 to 2018. This demand is only continuing to trend upward.
Organizations urgently need to fill positions to keep up with the demands of modern business. Because of this immediate need for experts in the technology field, it’s the perfect time for businesses to tap veterans for their knowledge and skills. By developing training programs focused on anything from basic technology skills to an advanced understanding of an advanced technology, businesses can upskill and reskill veterans to support new job roles within the tech sector.
Creating a Network of Veterans and Non-veteran Advocates
General Electric (GE) established its Veteran Network in 2009 with a commitment to support people who have served our country and the people who have supported them. As part of this initiative, GE piloted the Junior Officer Leadership Program (JOLP). The JOLP offers commissioned military officers the opportunity to work in three eight-month rotations within a GE business, in conjunction with business-specific courses, coaching and mentoring.
As veterans transition from the military environment into the corporate world, they face new rules on how to interact with co-workers and leaders. Arming veterans with the resources for a smooth evolution into their new life is crucial to their success. Your organization can accomplish this goal by establishing a strong network of veterans and non-veteran advocates to coach and mentor veterans through the transition and provide valuable insights into how they can establish successful careers.
Reskilling and Upskilling Veteran’s Using What They Already Know
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University provides career training and education to help translate existing military skills into a civilian career. IVMF provides IT skills and certification as well as business skills and leadership training content to advance the lives of U.S. military veterans, transitioning service members and their families.
The USO Pathfinder® program is another good example; a comprehensive transition program for veterans, Pathfinder has provide digital resources, including on-demand and in-person learning, to more than 100,000 service members — at no cost to them.
By partnering with a learning solutions provider, organizations can develop a targeted and expansive collection of resources geared toward leveraging and developing the skills veterans acquired during their time serving our country. Building on the knowledge, skills and lessons they learned previously, training programs should offer courses that prepare veterans for certifications to develop their technical skills. Then, veterans do not have to start at square one as they transition into civilian life. They can build from prior knowledge, ultimately making them more effective in their new roles.
Helping Veterans Manage Relational Expectations With Leaders and Co-workers
If you’re thinking about hiring a veteran, you should also be prepared to help them rediscover and manage their expectations when it comes to relationships with leaders and co-workers. In the military, these relationships can look different than in civilian life, and it can be difficult for veterans to transition.
Although technical skills and practical training programs are vital to a veteran’s career success, so are resources that focus on leadership styles, management expectations and different working environments. Veterans may need reminders and/or help rediscovering relational expectations through training and other resources. Relationship skills are an imperative part of veteran success, and providing them with the resources to develop those skills is crucial.
Investing in Veterans
U.S. veterans of all ages have been well trained in the managerial and leadership skills that are vital to business success. They can take on responsibilities that their civilian counterparts may need to spend time further preparing for. Beyond their ability to manage and lead, veterans have had the significant task of being responsible for the performance, safety and — most importantly — lives of others. These experiences add business value across roles and industries and are a unique advantage veterans offer.
When organizations take the time to implement programs that invest in veterans and help them develop new or expanded skill sets, they are not only helping grow their business, but they are giving back to the people who have dedicated their lives defending our country. The transition from service to civilian life can be difficult, but there are limitless opportunities for organizations to support and empower veterans in the workforce. It’s the least we can do to say, “Thank you.”