Our active-duty soldiers are on call every day, so isn’t it ironic that we call out just one Veterans Day—Nov. 11 —to honor those who have served our country?
And there’s something else I cannot fathom, and that I find unacceptable to the extreme: the high unemployment rate for post-9/11 returned veterans. For younger vets, ages 18 to 24, the jobless rate sits at an unbelievable 20 percent.
I know firsthand—from being a former military man (U.S. Air Force retired) and current CEO of Arise Virtual Solutions—that veterans’ skills and experience are immensely transferable to business ventures.
In fact, in my experience, veterans generally perform impressively as professionals and entrepreneurs. At Arise, we have worked with thousands of small businesses run by veterans who, due in large part to their military training, know how to take ownership of a situation and be authoritative. But at the same time, they are empathetic and can think like a customer, bringing their excellent communication skills and firm grasp of technology to the fore.
Why are so few businesses willing to give young veterans a chance to prove their worth in positions for which they have been uniquely prepared by their military training? That, in fact, is the big question—how can post-9/11 vets gain entry into jobs that offer potential for above-entry-level opportunities?
This is a national crisis and must be addressed in a major way. Don’t get me wrong—there have been many initiatives developed in the past few years, but they simply have not been enough. And with our forces being drawn down on several fronts, this is a problem that is not going away; if anything, we are going to see more of these young men and women returning to an employment market that is neither prepared nor, it seems, all that interested in welcoming them home.
The most visible of the programs out there is the White House’s Joining Forces initiative, by which First Lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaObama to travel to South Pacific island to work on memoir: report Obama and Trump haven’t talked since inauguration For Democrats, no clear leader MORE and “Second Lady” Dr. Jill Biden are working to make the troubling issue more commonly discussed and thought about. It’s a good start—but we need more. More private companies need to step up and not just create veteran-hiring mandates (which are great) but create veteran-training programs to ensure that these former soldiers are fully prepared for the positions they could be taking.
When I was making my transition to the business world from the military, the greatest challenge I found was the difference in defining objectives. For instance, in the military, our orders were usually fairly straightforward: hold the fort. So success was measured by how well we held the fort. But in business, I found that my marching orders were not usually so clear-cut, and some objectives were at cross-purposes, and some colleagues may have entirely different goals.
This is some of the training that prospective employers need to provide service men and women and will prove to be a small investment for large returns—for the entire country.
Meyer is chief executive officer of Arise Virtual Solutions.