How 2% of Veterans Compete for Jobs & Enrollments

MMBA - iStock_000007901834XSmallVeteran unemployment costs taxpayers $1B/year and more government funds are being spent by the day to solve the problem. This includes a new $1 Billion VA Jobs Program, which even Veteran groups openly question.

Transition Assistance Programs (TAP), which were established in 1993 as the first line of support to assist vets, are in transition themselves and have historically been criticized by officers and NCOs as ineffective.

Indicators show veteran unemployment is dropping and many insiders publicly applaud their efforts to lower this rate. However, parts of the labor market are being persuaded by government (i.e., intervention) into hiring veterans. One example of this happening is a requirement on some government contracts which are only awarded to companies who have hired vets. For all of this activity and investment a Military Times heading last week reported that, “Post-9/11 veterans employment improves but still lags civilian rate.”

All of this raises several questions. Given the amount of money spent, why can’t more veterans get jobs? Why does veteran unemployment remain a stubborn problem? Is the active involvement of government artificially lowering veteran unemployment now and will it eventually increase? Are the good intentions of our government preventing employers from evaluating veterans on their own merit? Finally, why does every program seem to further complicate the solution?

I’m not a Washington politician, Five-Star General, Nobel prize-winning labor economist or even a self-proclaimed expert on this topic. However, I believe we need more qualified contributors to help solve the veteran applicant problem. This problem leads to fewer civilian jobs and college enrollments, and results in lower productivity for organizations.

It’s useful to simplify and isolate the main issue. The underlying problem is that 98% of veterans can’t compete. And, when I say “can’t compete” I don’t mean veterans are not qualified or capable of competing. The vast majority certainly are, but jobs and enrollments continue to pass by veterans. So, why can’t 98% of veterans compete? Where does this percentage come from?

98% Can’t Translate
According to results of a Gallup economic poll taken on February 25, 2014, 98% of hiring managers for civilian jobs cite the amount of knowledge and applied skills a candidate has in the field of employment as important factor. Why does this matter to veterans? Because translating military skills to civilian employment has consensus opinion as the main deterrent in finding civilian jobs. It is mentioned by every person I have spoken with or resource I have read on veteran unemployment during the past several years as a main reason why vets can’t get hired. Fixing this would go a long way toward solving the problem. I will cover more on how to translate and acquire these skills in a future post.

98% Lack Reputation
The other 98% is related to activities of civilian hiring managers. Veterans need to pay much more attention to how hiring managers recruit and screen candidates. Hiring managers use a double-blind screen that filters 93% and then 5% of veterans out of all opportunities for jobs and enrollments. This happens because veterans: 1) underestimate the importance of social media used by all civilian organizations to recruit military candidates; 2) fail to protect and develop their reputations online which are screened and often used by organizations to reject military applicants. Apps are starting to be developed in this area to assist candidates. I will cover some of these tools in a subsequent post.

My appeal is simple. There is a veteran applicant, not a veteran unemployment, problem. Let’s solve the applicant problem. We can by focusing on the 98% of veterans who are qualified, but can’t compete for civilian jobs and college enrollments. Once we rally support behind a simplified system that is focused on solving the two underlying problems of translation and reputation, the sooner we can begin using our billions of dollars invested in veterans’ programs more efficiently.

Once veterans can translate their military skills to civilian employment and manage their digital reputations properly; employment, rather than unemployment, will be the main topic of conversation. Organizations will then be conducting more interviews with veterans, which will land them more jobs and enrollments. Civilian employers will judge military applicants on their own merits and this confidence will help stabilize labor markets. It will also increase civilian success rates and create a following for veterans.

When veterans have the right tools to compete, the market will value them fairly for what they’re worth and we will strengthen and grow our economy as a result.

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