Hiring Our Heroes: Leveraging the Best America Has to Offer
Advocacy A major challenge for veterans, and the employers who want to hire them, is how to align military experience with the civilian workplace. A new program spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation seeks to change that.
According to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, the overall unemployment rate in the U.S. was 6.2 percent in July. For veterans under the age of 25, the unemployment rate is 24.3 percent, compared with 15.8 percent for nonveterans in the same age group.
For Sgt. Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor recipient, this statistic is unacceptable. He says, “These men and women could have been anything they wanted to be, but they chose to be greater people. They chose to put their lives at risk for people they didn’t even know. They have a lot to bring to the workforce.”
One major challenge that veterans face is that most Americans have no idea what it takes to be part of the U.S. armed forces. For example, Sgt. Meyer was a sniper in the Marine Corp. Being a sniper is a skilled position that requires specialized training. It also requires the ability to commit to a mission, be a master communicator and learn quickly and constantly— all skills that translate well in the workforce. Unfortunately, most employers do not realize that military experience can make a veteran an ideal job candidate.
“If you hire a veteran, you are doing yourself a favor. You will make your company more successful.”
The Hiring Our Heroes program was launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation with support from the National Chamber Foundation and Capital One to bridge the gap between military life and the workforce. Bridging that gap can be more difficult than simply ‘wanting a job.’ Young veterans are often frustrated by having to repeat training they received during military service, because it delays their ability to become employed quickly and because it represents a failure to recognize all of the skills they performed in the military, often at very high levels. Everyone from highly skilled manual workers, to IT professionals, to clinicians and other military-trained professionals have experienced this.
At the very heart of this problem is the emotional impact that unemployment has on a veteran who has made a calculated investment by being in the military, endured a grueling training regimen, served diligently and experienced events that will forever alter their lives. Research has repeatedly shown that having a job is a fundamental part of overall well being, just as a long period of joblessness is a source of muted despair.
Whatever it takes
Sgt. Meyer says, “The question is not what a veteran can do, it’s “what can’t a veteran do?” He points to key qualities: They are mission-oriented, passionate, vested and they have a “whatever it takes” attitude. “If you hire a veteran, you are doing yourself a favor,” he says. “You will make your company more successful.”