I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.
– Dwight D Eisenhower
Post 9/11, young veterans returning from the battle field of Iraq or Afghanistan are finding it an uphill task to get a job. Despite efforts by the government in the form of tax credits and benevolent efforts by companies like Walmart, jobs are still not a cup of Joe for a Joe!
An Air Force Captain having a mechanical degree from the University of Southern California laments that in spite of having a mechanical degree, he is still jobless as companies interview him but end up hiring someone else.
Where lays the crux of the problem? The bone of contention as many employers put is the fact that these veterans find it difficult to transfer military experience to actual civilian work. The apple of discord not only limits to this; an inadequate coordination in efforts to aid veterans finding their jobs, PSTD, and combat related mental health related issues all add up to the ordeal. Another problem which looms large is deciphering or understanding what these soldiers want to say. Civilians that did not serve in the Military fail to understand what the veterans want to say about their experience, and this is creating a lacuna resulting in an army of discontent veterans. “I know how to lead soldiers” says an army captain visiting a job fair at San Jose, “but now I will be dealing with civilians, and I don’t know if I have the skills companies want.”
In their report for 2012, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that unemployment rate for veterans aged between 25 and 34 hovered around 10.6%, compared to the national civilian figure of 8.2%, and it was around 20.4% for those veterans in the bracket of 18 to 24 compared to the civilian statistics of 15%. To further the problem, these numbers can escalate quickly as approximately 1 million people are about to retire from active duty in a span of 5 years.
Head hunters and job consultants say that since most of the veterans go straight from high school to join the army, when they return back home, they find it difficult to get a decent job, even though they are at dire straits putting their resumes in order and cutting across the military jargons and acronyms. Employers do not understand what an “Infantry Squad leader” actually means and how they can relate this position to their corporate environment. Another problem that many HR companies feel that abstains an employer from hiring a veteran is perhaps the stigma of the mental health issues or PTSD. Assumptions that almost every veteran might suffer from PTSD keeps a lot of employer sitting on the fence. Unfortunately, these assumptions are not unfounded by statistics: it is said that 1 in 5 combat veterans return home with some form of PTSD.
To combat this, the US Chamber of commerce is taking initiatives such as creating job fairs like Hiring our Heroes, which resulted in more than 18,400 veterans and their spouses getting jobs in the years 2011-2012 and introduced the employers to a talent pool. Perhaps this dogma that veterans are unemployable can be removed if businesses and non-profit organizations band together to help veterans brush up their skills and help them learn how to transform their battle field experience to a civilian work environment.