November 11 marks Veterans’ Day, a day dedicated to honoring American service members. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, American veterans numbered 21.2 million, and of those, 495,000 were unemployed. As workforce development professionals, assisting veterans in transitioning from military to civilian careers is an important service we can offer to honor our vets.
A recent “Veterans in the Workplace” report, published by Hiring Our Heroes on November 2, 2016, surveyed 400 human resource professionals and 1,000 recently transitioned veterans. The survey found that veterans who began their job search at least six months prior to leaving active duty had the most success in transitioning from military to civilian careers. In entering the job market, surveyed veterans reported difficulty deciding what career path to pursue, lack of communication from hiring managers, and insufficient resources or contacts.
As those who use our system know, America’s JobLink (AJL) is a great tool for recruiting and assisting veterans seeking employment. Job orders are posted in accordance with Veteran’s Priority of Service settings (which are customizable by state), so employers can be confident that veterans and covered persons have first access to job listings. Resumes from veterans and covered persons are easily identified using filters to return veterans and by icons next to resume titles. With specialized reports tracking self-service and staff-assisted veterans, other eligibles, and covered persons, workforce center staff can easily identify who needs to be contacted and who has been receiving services.
America’s Job Link Alliance (AJLA) Steering Committee member, Sergio Estrada, Manager of Federal Performance Reporting for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, retired as a Marine Sergeant Major after 27.5 years of active duty and has worked with veterans in the workforce for 11 years. We asked him a few questions about working with veterans. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What was your experience transitioning from a military to civilian career? What was most helpful during your transition?
A: My experience was good. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP)—which provides employment and training information to armed forces members within 180 days of separation or retirement—conducted at Great Lakes Naval Base was very helpful. The coordinator had a speaker from the Illinois Department of Employment Security who briefed those attending on the issues we were facing transitioning from military to civilian life, as well as how to register for the State Labor Exchange, write resumes, and interview for jobs. With those resources, a week after I retired from the Marines, I was employed with the State Department of Veterans Affairs.
Q: What would you say to a workforce staff member who’s new to working with veterans?
A: Listen to the veteran and try putting yourself in their shoes.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles to veterans finding employment?
A: Pride! Most veterans hate failing. They feel that they can do it alone without the help of others.
Q: If you were to organize a workshop for veterans who are seeking employment, what would you focus on?
A: Inform the veterans that we are there to guide them throughout the process, and there’s nothing wrong with seek help.
Q: What resources do you find most helpful to refer vets to?
A: Federal and State Veterans’ Assistance (VA) benefits, such as VA home loans, and state and federal education assistance, and TAP’s employment services presentations on the military base.
This Veterans’ Day, let’s be especially mindful of service members who are transitioning from military to civilian careers. Every day, not just November 11, is an opportunity not just to thank a veteran, but also to offer our support and assistance as workforce center staff. Investing in the futures of veterans is the least we can do in return for their service.