Tracking Progress in the Fight Against Veteran Unemployment
Posted by Kate O'Gorman on June 15
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released unemployment numbers for May. The national unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2%, but the unemployment rate for new veterans rose to a whopping 12.7%, more than 4 percentage points higher than the national average. It is important to remember that the BLS sample size for new veterans is small, so we should not draw too many conclusions based on one month’s numbers. We expect these numbers to fluctuate. But this month’s high numbers do call into question the apparent progress we hoped we were making at the beginning of 2012.
The numbers show that the fight to end veteran unemployment is far from over. We must act decisively to address the unemployment challenges facing veterans as they transition from military to civilian life.
One of the biggest challenges continues to be translating military skills into today’s civilian job market. Consider Eric Smith, who told his story before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. As a Navy Corpsman, he was responsible for a 20+ bed intensive care unit and clearly had valuable technical and leadership skills that any civilian employer would be thrilled to have on their team. Yet when he left the Navy, Eric struggled to find work as a Certified Nursing Assistant because he lacked the certification that signaled to civilian employers that he had these skills. This experience is echoed by thousands of veterans who struggle to find work. Many lack a civilian certification to do the same jobs they did in the military. Others simply struggle to explain their military skills to a civilian employer.
Veterans aren’t the only ones having trouble translating; employers have a difficult time understanding how the military skills translate to their workplaces. In January 2012, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) released a poll of 359 Human Resource professionals from their membership. 50% of these respondents said that one of the biggest challenges in hiring veterans is “translating military skills to civilian job experience.” 92% of respondents said it would be at least a little helpful to have more “information about how military skills map to civilian job-related skills.”
Last week we saw action on this particular veteran employment challenge. At a Honeywell plant in Minnesota with a tradition of hiring vets, the President announced that he is setting up a Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force at the Pentagon. The goal of the task force is to close the gap between military training and civilian credentialing and licensing. The Task Force will seek opportunities for the military branches to partner with civilian licensing and credentialing agencies to identify the gaps in military and civilian training, fill those gaps, and help service members leave their training schools with the civilian licenses and certifications they’ll need to find a job after separating. The task force will target five industries that are adding jobs, but struggling to find qualified employees: manufacturing, transportation, health care, IT, and logistics. If these partnerships pay it will mean a shift the Pentagon’s approach to preparing current service members for their transition out of the military. The transition will not be limited to a few days at the tail end of a military career but built into its core training.
The President’s announcement is a good step in helping veterans translate their military experience to the civilian job market, but there is still more to be done. In November, Congress passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. A key provision in the bill commissions a study that will translate military experience to civilian skills and bridge gaps in military and civilian licensing. Congress and the President must now work together now to implement the VOW to Hire Heroes Act and help eliminate this challenge facing veterans looking for work.
To combat high unemployment levels, IAVA will be hosting four Smart Job Fairs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2012. The first one will be held in Chicago on June 6th, and future fairs will be held in New York City, Dallas, and Atlanta. Click here for more information and to sign up.
In just the last year, IAVA has connected hundreds of veterans with employers through innovative career fairs, helped over 10,000 veterans go to college on the New GI Bill, and provided mental health support to over 50,000 veterans—all at no cost to Member Veterans. Programs like these are only made possible through your generous support. Fight for those who fought for us and help us keep these resources and benefits completely free for new veterans and their families. DONATE >>
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