Veterans – The Hidden Talent Pool Companies Crave

This year, thousands of enlisted soldiers are expected to return home to join the already staggering count of unemployed veterans -” what are they coming home to?

With an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent for 2011 for young male veterans (those ages 18 to 24) who served during the Gulf War era, this group of veterans is facing an unemployment rate that is more than three times higher than that of young male nonveterans. Regardless of which way you carve the data, veterans in any demographic slice have a higher unemployment rate than that of their civilian counterparts.

What is interesting when soaking in these numbers is that 52 percent of today’s companies seeking to hire new employees say they cannot find the talent they need, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yet, people transitioning from active duty represent the single largest source of prospective employees and are among the best-trained candidates in the job market. Most Armed Forces veterans have received hundreds of hours of specialized management, professional or technical training — training which would have cost hiring companies thousands of dollars to provide.

The Armed Forces only admit a low percentage of those who apply, so those enlisted are already “pre-screened.” So, now we have a pre-screened talent pool that possesses volumes of hard skill training and wrapped in the cultural attributes companies are craving, such as the ability to learn, communicate, be adaptable and willing to go above and beyond.

Why are companies not actively seeking this hidden veteran talent? They just might be the best kept secret!

The Veteran Experience
Our returning veterans encounter the same challenge that companies do in matching their skills and experience to the needs of what a company is looking for in a canidate. They have many successful traits that businesses desire, but the veterans are often challenged to speak in terms of the company’s interest when translating and communicating their military skills and experiences so that businesses understand and see their incredible value.

The Business Experience
As Dale Carnegie would say, we need to “speak in terms of the other person’s interests.”

Today’s businesses are faced with a unique recruiting environment. Successful organizations know that when they find a candidate with great skills, experience and leadership capabilities that they have found a very unique candidate. With our economy still on the rebound, businesses no longer have vast training budgets for employee development.

When interviewing a veteran for a job, knowing of this translationary challenge, can we not seek to speak in terms of their interests? Perhaps it is our responsibility to ask questions to help draw out their talents so businesses can make the talent correlation.

Creating business awareness of the extensive benefits of the veteran candidate pool is needed. And yes, businesses also need to be educated on the potential financial benefits as well (which of course is not core to making hiring decisions, but education still is necessary).

The Education Experience
A challenge to universities and colleges today is to create a link to the business sector to assure that educational offerings are creating the skills and knowledge needed to bridge the talent gap and address the employers’ hiring needs -“ their interests.

Many articles have been written about the gap between the skills sought by employers and the available pool of talent, evident in our veteran unemployment rates. In general, it has been reported that more than 95 percent of Armed Forces veterans having high school diplomas and more than 35 percent having attended college, with almost 25 percent of veterans having college degrees. Veterans are ideally suited for colleges and universities to work with for the purpose of identifying the talent gap and creating curriculum to fill the hard skill gaps.

In essence, education has the tools necessary to custom build the employer’s next new hire -” if educational institutions know what elements were needed to custom build workers to fit their interests.

Combining Forces is Key
We all have heard the phrase “If we keep doing what we are doing, we will keep getting what we are getting.” With veteran unemployment rates being astronomically high, we need to do something differently.

Veterans have immense talent and can have positive impact on your entire workforce. Did you ever think about how hiring a veteran may positively impact employee morale? Wouldn’t it feel good for your employees to work with and support veterans?

So, if you are an employer and you find yourself interviewing a veteran and learn that they may need a few more specific trainable skills to make them the perfectly qualified candidate in the hiring pool, stop and ponder our responsibility.

Isn’t it time that business pulls together and actively seek to work with our veteran population and get them back to work? Now, let’s get busy!

Julie Mann is co-founder of Rock Star Warriors and president and CEO of parent company JMann Consulting Group. Through skills-training, education and resources, Rock Star Warriors is attacking the problem of unemployed veterans. Contact her at [email protected].

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.