The transition from active duty to civilian life is by no means simple. Those who take the oath to serve in the military sign a blank check, payable to America, willing to risk their lives for the benefit of others. When these servicemen and servicewomen return, they are met with a new challenge, how to navigate and thrive as a civilian.
One of the most challenging obstacles veterans of all ages must face is entering or re-entering into the workforce after service. Civilian life often lacks structure, camaraderie, and a sense of purpose to which veterans are accustomed. One of the first steps in adjusting to the shift in lifestyles is to find a stable career that emulates the structure of military life through connection, teamwork and becoming part of something bigger than oneself.
Currently, our country is facing the tightest labor market since the 1980s. While many companies are searching for viable candidates, they tend to overlook a group of untapped talent: veterans. Among the 326,000 unemployed veterans in 2018, 54 percent range in age from 25 to 54, 40 percent from 55 and over, and 6 percent from 18 to 24 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than half of these veterans are at a prime age for starting a new career. However, they are often overlooked for many opportunities due to a lack of awareness about how veteran skills transfer to a corporate setting.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome for both veterans and employers is educating themselves on how military skills can translate into the everyday tasks in any given place of work. With veterans, the world was their classroom. They learned how to work as a member of a team or as a leader through shared hardships and accomplishing challenging missions with their units. They learned leadership through the positions they held, the military training they received, and through real-world experience. They are comfortable with structure, committed, reliable, and punctual. They are composed and productive, careful and thorough. Many veterans have years of firsthand experience that directly translate into IT, security, manufacturing, logistics, or managerial positions. It is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of communication between business and veteran.
In a tight labor market, a business cannot afford to allow talent to go to waste. While it is the individual veteran’s responsibility to seek out positions they feel suit their skills, it is also the responsibility of American businesses to analyze how they can better appeal to this untapped demographic. According to a study from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, veterans are more likely to seek out a position from an organization that offers veteran benefits and provides education on how military skills carry over into the workplace. Finding the right career upon returning to civilian life is a two-way street. Veterans will come to the table with a sturdy foundation of skills, and each organization has the choice to employ dedicated and loyal workers by meeting them where they are and developing technical skills they may lack.
In my 35 years of service, I have innumerable examples of young men and women wholly committed to achieving their assigned missions. Whether in combat or peacetime, the veterans with whom I had the pleasure to serve represent the best that America has to offer. A young sergeant, no older than 23, may be responsible for the lives of 65 Rangers loaded onto a C-130 airplane and safely train and prepare them to conduct a night parachute jump into combat. Experience like that is indicative of the confidence, grit, and poise required to succeed in any endeavor.
At the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, we invest in experiences that help to promote job placement for local veterans. Each month we host Rally Point, a program that allows veterans to network with each other and share their experiences. This fall, Topgolf is partnering with the National Veterans Memorial and Museum to host VetOps, a nationwide hiring event for veterans on Friday, Nov. 8. Ten different Topgolf venues across the country will host up to 15 companies with positions available for veterans. While it is our goal to have 2,500 veterans hired, this is just the beginning. If there are positions to be held, communities to build, and people to serve, veterans will step up to the plate. With the right opportunities, I believe that we will soon see the tight labor market loosen the reins, allowing for veterans to live more fulfilled lives after service.
Lt. General Michael Ferriter, U.S. Army (Ret.) serves as president and CEO for the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum, located in Columbus, Ohio.