Veteran Employment

A Summary of the Report, Onward and Upward, by Scott Riley

The results of a recent study conducted by the Center for a New American Society were published in a report titled, Onward and UpwardUnderstanding Veteran Retention and Performance in the Workforce  It revealed a number of indicators of veteran-specific obstacles, resulting in the proposal of various recommendations.

NWPVA was recently informed about the study by Lourdes E. Alvarado-Ramos (Alfie), the Director of the Washington Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), noting that, “It does not come as a surprise as we have been working on this in WA since 2008”.

In the years following 9/11 there was a significant spike in veteran unemployment, homelessness and psychological illness. As a result, a renewed focus by government and public entities initiated the development of a host of new veteran employment programs. Many positive strides were made and veteran unemployment rates declined slightly more than those of the non-veteran population.  There remains, however, significant barriers exclusive to veterans, primarily in transition preparation and initial job fit.

The study found that the majority of employers found veterans to be highly performing and reliable, bringing, “a level of dedication and professionalism that promotes the bottom line while lower turnover increases institutional knowledge and cuts costs.”  While a high turnover rate in the first year of employment was a significant finding, it was largely positive, and due to changing jobs for better positions, new challenges and increased pay.

Yet, there remains a number of veterans who feel underutilized and underemployed, caused by factors such as the lack of job seeking skills, unreasonable expectations, career confusion and a misunderstanding of transferable skills.  While the following recommendations address specific needs, the major conclusion was that the job transition process should begin earlier, largely throughout the service period.

A short summary of the key areas for improvement noted in the report include the following:

Improve Data Collection and Usage

It’s difficult to analyze veteran job performance because there is not a uniform practice or requirement for the collection of data.

Understand Veterans in the Context of the Broader Population

Many of the issues faced are societal, not veteran specific, so veteran transition, employment and retention efforts should align with and borrow from the private sector.

Change the Metrics of Success from Hiring Veterans to Retaining Veterans

The study showed a high turnover of veteran employment in the initial period, so job fit, retention and career based considerations should encompass a longer term view of veteran success in the workforce.

Articulate the Economic Value Proposition

Veterans are more productive and reliable than their non-veteran peers.  Veteran employment efforts should focus on broadcasting the positive affect to business results and revenue by the higher performance and better retention rates of veterans.

Improve Transition

Career planning and readiness should begin earlier while still in the service and be viewed as a process, rather than a single event.

Increase Financial Literacy

Service members need to begin planning for the transition to civilian life by saving earlier and engaging in financial education.

Support the Role of Management/HR

The typical interview screening process excludes veterans due to baseline educational requirements and lack of consideration for benefits of military experience.  Programs to help educate hiring managers should focus on a more veteran-inclusive initial screening process to allow more opportunities for veterans to be interviewed.

The study clearly showed that the veteran workforce is critical to the American economy. Veteran employment should remain a primary focus in the development of social and economic improvement programs in this country, if it is to remain as strong and free as those same veterans fought for it to be.