Each year the United States (US) Department of Defense (DoD) invests billions of dollars into training its members to maintain the most professionally qualified and technologically advanced military force in the world. According to the US Army Recruiting Command, the Army spends approximately $25,000 training each of its recruits to the basic minimum qualifications. These recruits go on to attend follow-on schools for more specific and extensive training to be qualified in their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). This training creates a talent pool of military veterans who are highly qualified and prepared for employment in the civilian workforce following the completion of their service. The veteran talent pool is an excellent resource to hire a motivated, well trained, and experienced member to an organization. The capabilities and benefits these veterans may offer an organization are often misunderstood by employers in the civilian sector. Understanding and capitalizing on opportunities to hire veterans could be essential to the future success of any organization
Each year, over 150,000 men and women enter service in the armed forces. Prior to acceptance into service, each recruit is evaluated in their medical history, physical fitness, mental aptitude, and criminal background to ensure an eminently qualified individual with a high degree of potential is brought into service. Depending on the service, each recruit spends between eight (8) and 14 weeks in entry level training where they are instilled with the service’s values, standards of discipline, and fundamental training. Upon completion of this initial training, the recruit becomes a minimally qualified member of the service and moves on to advanced training and schooling that pertains to their respective MOS.
Their MOS training provides them with knowledge and skills necessary to work in specific fields ranging from infantrymen, vehicle maintainers, air-traffic controllers, intelligence analysts, registered nurses, and hundreds of others. In many cases, additional advanced training, certifications, and higher education is provided to the member to enhance their abilities throughout their service.At the conclusion of their service, each member undergoes a series of classes or seminars that assist them in transitioning from military service to civilian employment or schooling. These activities equip the veteran with the skills and knowledge to build a professional resume, practice to conduct formal interviews, apply for veterans’ benefits, and also prepare to translate their military skills and qualifications to the civilian workforce.
Despite the significant amount of training, education, and experience delivered by the military, veterans often struggle to seek employment in the civilian sector. According to one article published by the Washington Post in June of 2012, “annual unemployment rates for post-9/11 veterans averages one percentage point higher than that of non-veterans” in that year (McGregor, 2012). The article expounds into further detail that for “military members between the ages of 22 and 24, the unemployment rate was, on average, 3 percent higher than for non-veterans of the same age”. The following year, Fortune Magazine conducted their own study and found that veteran unemployed had reached up to 10% in 2013 compared to 6.8 of non-veterans. While some concerted efforts have been made since the publication of those articles to close the unemployment gap between veterans and non-veterans, the disparity still exists to this day. According to a report published by United States Department of Labor, a total of 581,000 veterans were unemployed in 2020. The same report indicated 6.5 percent of all veterans were unemployed compared to 5.5 percent of non-veterans.
There is a myriad of reasons why veterans struggle to find employment. In 2019, Military.com interviewed a number of hiring managers to inquire upon some of the reasons they ultimately chose not to hire veterans. The top reason provided was that the hiring manager simply did not understand the terminology on the veteran’s resume or the terminology they used to describe their military service during an interview. The military has its own professional language that contains an overwhelming about of specialized terminology and acronyms that are not commonly used in the civilian sector. It can be difficult to understand a veteran if the hiring manager is not familiar with military verbiage. Another primary reason discussed in the article explained that many hiring managers struggled to understand what skills and abilities a military veteran could bring to a civilian profession. Many employers feel veterans have limited transferable skills that are applicable to the civilian sector. A third rational given by the hiring managers discussed the complexity of veterans’ resumes and their reluctance to hiring a veteran because they were overwhelmed by the content of the resume. Military service-members often hold multiple job titles even during some of the shortest periods of service. It is not uncommon for a service member to be promoted or relocated to a new position within the organization every two or three years while simultaneously accumulating awards and additional education along the way. Resumes that capture the totality of the veteran’s service may contain far more information that a traditional civilian resume spanning the same time period. All of the aforementioned factors and more contribute to the hesitance of hiring managers to bring veterans into their organizations.
Most military veterans have been trained in skills and methods that are directly transferable to the civilian sector. The military relies heavily on qualifications and methodologies prevalent in the civilian sector. Enlisted members of the military are formally trained in specific trades and often hold degrees or certifications that translate well to civilian occupations. Enlisted members also receive training in management skills as they risk through the ranks to more senior levels. Furthermore, Commissioned Officers are college graduates with a minimum 4-year undergraduate degree. Officers are also formally trained by the military in organizational leadership, operations management, fiscal planning, risk management, and problem solving. As the career of the officer progresses, they attend further formal schooling and training that is commensurate of graduate level programs to prepare them for leadership positions equivalent to business executives. The following is sample of the transferable skills gained from military training as a basically qualified Marine Corps Data Systems Operator as it relates to a civilian Mid-level Data Center Technician.
The product of the extensive schooling and training required by the military are professionals who are well rounded in their knowledge, accustomed to high work tempos, diverse in their experiences, and capable of navigating complex environments. Some veterans already have experience working alongside civilian counterparts from their time in the military. Civil service employees and civilian contractors are prevalent in many work centers across the DoD. Finally, veterans continue to offer valued added to organizations through their continuing education. Most veterans are eligible to receive their GI Bill education benefits. These benefits may consist of up to 36 months of college tuition and fee reimbursement, housing allowances during schooling, and a books and supplies stipend.
In total, military veterans offer civilian employers an exceptionally qualified and experienced candidate for hiring. Their diverse experience enables veterans to fit well in a multitude of work environments. Their education, training, and potential for follow-on schooling ensures they will be a long-term value-added member of any organization. All the aforementioned characteristics make military veterans well prepared for transition and form a talent pool that is critical to the civilian workforce.