The unemployment rate for veterans fell to an eight-year low in October, an achievement a senior DOD official attributed to an improving economy, the rising number of corporate campaigns to hire veterans and a greater appreciation among employers for the professional attributes ingrained in service members.
The veteran unemployment rate stood at 3.9 percent in October, while nonveteran unemployment was 5.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more impressive were the employment gains by veterans who served after 9/11 — their unemployment rate was 4.6 percent, essentially the same as the rate for nonveterans.
The philosophy behind hiring veterans has evolved from the “right thing to do” to “the smart thing to do,” Susan Kelly, director of the Pentagon’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, told DOD News.
Kelly pointed to an increased understanding in the corporate world for the leadership skills instilled in every veteran. Beyond leadership, those “essential skills” include ability to handle work stress, persistence, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, teamwork and team-building, oral and written communication, decision making, training people, supervising, critical thinking and project planning, she said.
“Employers have been telling us the last 18 months, ‘We can train them in technical skills, but the [other skills] take years to develop,’” Kelly said.
Another key to the declining veteran unemployment rate has been the outpouring of corporate and nonprofit efforts to hire veterans and military spouses spawned by the White House’s Joining Forces initiative.
At DOD, Kelly helped transform the Transition Assistance Program into week-long, mandatory training for separating personnel covering the skills needed to secure jobs, seek education and pursue optional training. She told DOD News that the professional skills possessed by service members are badly needed by a civilian workforce with significant skills gaps.
“We look at these skills as an asset for the workforce, but our veterans have an incredible amount of attributes that can be used in all aspects of community life,” Kelly said.