Addressing the Myths that Prevent Veteran Employment
Earlier this month, Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, revealed The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative, which will effectively provide $29 million in grants to give veterans better access to local transportation. One of the main incentives behind enacting the initiative was the belief that more readily available transportation jobs would mean a decrease in unemployment. However, limited access to transportation work is just one of several factors that have pushed veteran unemployment over 12%.
In today’s economy, many find it difficult to gain full employment, but it’s especially difficult for returning veterans. There are many misconceptions and prejudices that keep employers from choosing to hire veterans. In addition, there are many veterans who feel uncertain and nervous as they seek to transition back into the civilian world. They feel stereotyped and unappreciated, and they often aren’t sure how to explain their skills to employers. What would-be employers often fail to see in these returning military members are leadership skills, hands-on training, adaptability, and problem-solving skills that should not be overlooked in the workplace.
In a release from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the 2011 unemployment rate of post-September 11th veterans was a staggering 12.1%. The unemployment rate among the U.S. population in general is currently 8.2%. In particular, young male veterans between 18-24 had an unemployment rate of 29.1%, while non-veterans in that group had an unemployment rate of 17.6%. In the 25-34 age range, the difference was 13.4% unemployment vs. 9.5%. These differences are significant, is just one indication that employers may be viewing veterans differently than non-veterans.
When a veteran returns from an overseas deployment, some will view them as a hero. However, employers tend to view them with suspicion. There has been a great deal of publicity and federal funding to help veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).This additional publicity has also perpetuated myths that every veteran is maladjusted and unable to function appropriately in society. There are several types of stigmas that affect veteran employment:
– Unreliability. Rather than being seen as helping our nation, veterans are often viewed as unreliable due to multiple moves and deployments. One veteran detailed her experience with this stigma on the Veteran’s Affairs blog in February of 2012.
– Volatility. As mentioned above, due to publicized incidents involving PTSD and TBI, veterans can be stereotyped as having anger issues that can snap without warning. While PTSD and TBI can cause emotional and cognitive issues, these problems can often be overcome with proper treatment, accommodation, and counseling. In addition, not every retuning service member is afflicted with these mental illnesses.
– Lack of Qualifications. Unfortunately, the extensive training and leadership of our men and women in uniform is not as easily recognized in the civilian world as it should be. Many employers are only interested in whether an individual has a college degree, and will gloss over the hands-on experience, adaptability, and leadership veterans possess. In addition, many veterans struggle to describe their experience and skills in a way that applies to the business world.
There is no easy solution to these issues, but there are several things that can be done by both employers and veterans to ease the unemployment situation and help more veterans become employed.
– Hiring Our Heroes Act. Signed into law by President Obama in November of 2011,this Act gives higher visibility to the employability of veterans and helps remove some of the stigmas. It has also created resources to help veterans translate their skills in ways that would apply to the civilian workforce. In addition, there are new online tools to search for jobs and new resources for case management and career counseling. These tools are available on the Joining Forces resource page.
– Education of Employers. Many employers feel that a veteran could be a danger in the workplace, or that accommodation for disabilities would cost the company too much money. What an employer doesn’t realize is the experience, leadership, adaptability, and skill of a veteran can bring great advantage to the company and often the cost of accommodation is minimal. America’s Heroes at Work has created a fantastic Employer Tool Kit that can be of great help to employers in seeking to hire and integrate the skills of veterans into their business.
Today’s economy isn’t an easy place for anyone seeking employment. However veterans shouldn’t have a more difficult time than other job seekers. As veterans learn to articulate their skills, and employers and society move to overcome the stigmas they have toward veterans, there is reason to believe the veteran employment situation can improve.
The article was written by Anna Brown in partnership with AmeriQuest Transportation Services. AmeriQuest is a fleet management company that provides services including the sales of fleet equipment, truck leasing, and the sales of used freightliner trucks.