Helping Veterans Get Back to Work

On this Memorial Day, I’d like to honor the military personnel who have risked their lives for our freedom by dedicating this article to the employment of veterans.As we remember the fallen heroes who helped make this country great, it’s also important to keep in mind those heroes who have returned home and need our support. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 837,000 veterans unemployed in this country. When it comes to young veterans, the department reports that more than one out of every four veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 are unemployed. Considering the national unemployment rate is currently at 9%, these are disappointing numbers and they are likely to get worse as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to wind down.Veterans face two major challenges: the ease of transferring their skills into civilian opportunities and a general lack of understanding by civilian employers about the value of veterans’ experiences. For example, a combat medic can’t come back to the U.S. and work as an emergency medical technician or even drive an ambulance. Similarly, a military aircraft mechanic can’t come back and get work maintaining a private jet. Veterans have to start all over and go through the education and certification processes required by law and in some cases, the professional organizations that govern each industry. As ridiculous as this sounds, it’s an incredible hurdle for veterans to overcome, particularly in these troubled economic times.To tackle these challenges, many lawmakers including Sen. Patty Murray, (D-WA), and Rep. Sanford Bishop, (D-GA), have been spearheading legislation to help veterans overcome these obstacles. Referred to as the Hiring Heroes Act, the package is focused on providing mandatory training and placement services for separating military personal during the transition process. The bill also provides tax credits to companies who hire veterans. Hearings on the bill are scheduled for late June.In the meantime, if you are a veteran, friend of a veteran, or an employer who wants to reach out and do your part, here are some career development resources for veterans and employers:For VeteransFeds Hire Vets —A result of an executive order in 2009, this is a source for federal employment information for veterans, transitioning service members, their families, Federal HR professionals and hiring managers. There are also useful training and other resources for both the applicant and the hiring agency.Military Hire—A network that helps former military personnel find careers and utilize their professional skills.DOL Veteran’s Employment and Training Service—The Department of Labor provides resources and expertise to assist and prepare veterans to obtain meaningful careers, maximize their employment opportunities and protect their employment rights.For EmployersNot only do veterans deserve to have a smooth transition back into the civilian sector, but they can also be truly-valuable assets to any organization. One of the greatest challenges veterans face is a lack of understanding and support from the civilian community they fought to protect. To connect with unemployed veterans looking for work and view their resumes and/or profiles, you can refer to the following sites:Hire Veterans—This site offers employers access to resumes and job postings so that they can reach out to veterans.Hire Heroes USA—A non-profit organization that offers transition assistance, job search assistance, and job placement services to veterans.I encourage employers to consider reaching out to military veterans when looking for job candidates. We, as a country, can’t forget about our veterans. One of the greatest ways to honor those who have fallen is to help those who have come back.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook