By James Mitchell
Most everyone agrees that the men and women who have served their nation are more than deserving of employment opportunities, but workforce and military experts said there are still battles to be fought in securing jobs for separating veterans.
Previously-held perceptions that military occupations are incompatible with the real world fail to recognize the range of skills held by an experienced workforce, professionals ready to hit the ground running.
“The biggest challenge is mapping those applicable skills from the military to the civilian world,” said Jeff Styers, staffing manager with Bingham Farms-based Arrow Strategies. “They’ve come a long way in having applicable skills than in the past.”
Arrow Strategies has had considerable success with Operation Restore Valor, a program that paves the employment path for returning veterans. Since its launch in 2014 nearly 40 veterans have been placed in positions across four fields: IT, engineering, health care and professional services.
There are instances where systems used in the military may not be what civilian employers currently use, but Styers – a former U.S. Marine – said the fundamental skills are compatible with proper certification. As a bonus, veterans come equipped with intangible skills that are just as – perhaps more – critical than easily-adaptable technical knowledge. Styers is compiling a ‘white paper’ review of attributes, drawn from Operation Restore Valor’s 10-step hiring process.
“Some think of it as a politically-correct thing to hire veterans, but they truly don’t understand the business reasons,” Styers said. Along with problem-solving and understanding a chain-of-command, many have already obtained security clearances, a hurdle that many sensitive positions – notably with IT – require.
“If you look at the top reasons to hire a veteran, these are things most civilian candidates don’t have,” Styers said. “Even if a security clearance isn’t required, it still says something about the person. There are more real-world applications for what they’re doing than a college student. You can’t train integrity and self-discipline.”
Similar programs include a hiring network formed a partnership between community colleges, the five Michigan installations of the U.S. Army and Air Force and Merit Network, a nonprofit institute dedicated to computer networking with an emphasis on cyber security.
“There’s a network for training, testing and exercises,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Stone of adjunct for installations with the Michigan National Guard. One goal of the program is to match military experience with civilian credentials, such as with a 400-soldier signal battalion engaged in the defense of computer networks.
“The Army teaches the task but won’t pay for a civilian certificate,” Stone said. “Whether it’s returning veterans or National Guardsmen, we’re trying to align our IT forces with the pipeline to jobs.”