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Putting Veterans to Work: a Win-Win for Veterans and the Private Sector

Since the “Great Recession” struck several years ago, the tough economy has hit every sector of society, with the nation dealing with 9 percent unemployment. However, as we approach Veterans Day, the tough economic times have hit veterans especially hard, with veteran unemployment at 12.1 percent.

With over 850,000 American veterans unemployed and continuing to struggle to find meaningful, long-term employment, Katie Hirning, Senior Vice President, Government Sector, Sutherland Global Services, joined GovWin for a GovCon Careers Webinar entitled, “Connecting Veterans With the Private Sector” to shine a light on how companies can do more to hire veterans who can bring much-needed skills and expertise to the private sector. Download the presentation slides [PDF]

Challenges to Veteran Employment

“In these tough economic times with this high unemployment,” Hirning said, “it is the norm for our veterans, unfortunately, to be unemployed.” Hirning noted that each year approximately 125,000 personnel are discharged from the military. With the upcoming drawdowns in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the number of veterans potentially entering the civilian workforce over the next few years is expected to be higher than usual. With an economy continuing to remain sluggish with no to minimal growth, it becomes even harder for veterans to find the kind of flexible and meaningful employment they need.

Another challenge, according to Hirning, continues to be corporate veteran recruiting programs. While most companies have them, most “fall short in the recruiting efforts, training and retaining the veterans.” Part of the problem lies in what Hirning calls the need for companies to better recognize how “a military position and skill level is translated into a civilian skill level.”

Partnership Between Veterans, Private Sector and Government Is Key Ingredient

To better facilitate an understanding of how skilled veterans can fit into your organization, Hirning strongly recommends that every company approach their recruitment as a strategic partnership between veteran communities, including non-profit groups, as well as local, state and federal agencies.

“You have to really be able to connect with a community,” says Hirning, and “not just the local veterans community.” The benefit of connecting with the community, according to Hirning, is that you can tap into programs for veterans. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, for example, has a program for employing veterans, and many states have similar incentives. But to truly unlock all the information and plan your recruitment program effectively, you need to first tap into the existing communities.

“You need to really create a local community, a state community from the state you are going to hire from, and then at the federal level,” Hirning notes. “And if you can create that structure, you can draw the kind of talent that you need” for your company.

Key Factors To Consider When Recruiting Veterans

While creating the communities for veteran recruiting and engaging veteran organizations are both important steps in the process, Hirning had other recommendations for companies that will help ensure their recruitment programs are succesful:

  • Keep your veteran recruitment program separate from all others, and keep it in your human resources department.
  • Bring in an experienced veteran to help run your recruitment program.
  • Implement very strong and continuous training programs, and remember – this is a career that you are trying to offer, not just a temporary position.
  • Remember that virtual and/or flexible workplaces can be the difference between success or failure in finding and retaining full time employment for transitioning veterans, disabled veterans and military spouses.

Veterans Represent the Disciplined and Skilled Workers Companies Need

Lastly, Hirning pointed out that veterans are highly skilled from their time in the military, have tremendous discipline and great work ethic. The key to easing the unemployment crisis facing veterans is for more companies to take an active role in hiring veterans, recognize the benefits veterans represent to their company, and reaching out and engaging with veteran communities.

For those interested in finding solutions for veteran employment, Sutherland Global is hosting a symposium on Connecting Veterans to the Private Sector, Monday, Nov. 14, in Washington, D.C.

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