Spc. Everett Perez is an aspiring CrossFit trainer who has been in the U.S. Army for 7 years and completed tours to the Philippines and Kuwait. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)
For employers looking to fill key positions, U.S. military veterans offer an enticing option.
But at a time when more veterans are returning home from active duty, fewer job opportunities are available to them. Last year, the jobless rate among post-Sept. 11, 2001 veterans averaged 12.1 percent — higher than the national rate of about 9 percent.
On Hawaii Island, unemployed veterans face an especially daunting task, said Melvin Arai, an employment representative for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations Workforce Development Division.
“It’s already difficult here because of our economy. There just aren’t many jobs on this island,” he said.
On top of that, veterans must contend with a number of challenges that serve to hurt their chances as they compete with civilian job seekers.
“If you’ve been deployed, you haven’t been around and don’t have the contacts that other people may have,” Arai said. “You’re out of the loop. … A lot of them come in, and they don’t know anybody.”
Additionally, some veterans may have a hard time knowing how their military experience can translate into a valuable civilian commodity.
“I have a lot of them who say to me, ‘I was an infantryman. How does that translate to work skills?’” he said. “But I tell them, ‘You had responsibility. … You have leadership skills that would make a good manager or a supervisor. You have good critical thinking skills.’”
Arai’s assertions were borne out in a national report released in June that centered on interviews with 87 individuals representing 69 companies. According to a summary of the report by the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security, the authors found that “hiring veterans is good business.”
Among the reasons that employers gave CNAS for preferring U.S. military veterans:
Leadership and teamwork skills. Veterans typically have led colleagues, accepted direction from others and operated as part of a small team.
Character. Veterans are perceived as being trustworthy, dependable, and having a strong work ethic.
Structure and discipline. Companies, especially those that emphasize safety, appreciate veterans’ experience following established procedures.
Proven success. Some organizations hire veterans largely because other veterans have already been successful in their organization. Veterans demonstrate that they share company values and fit the organizational culture.
Public relations value. Some companies have found marketing benefits to hiring veterans.
Despite employers’ strong perceptions of veterans, many of them continue to struggle with finding employment. And that’s why a multitude of options exists to help connect them with employers. Among its offerings, the Workforce Development Division operates the Veterans’ Employment and Training Services Program, which was created by Congress to help veterans make the transition from military to civilian life and find fulfilling careers. The program, known as VETS, organizes job fairs and recruitment opportunities for veterans, offers counseling for veteran job seekers, and maintains a federal contractor job listing and an online jobs database at hirenethawaii.com.
And that’s just one place to find help. Performing a simple Google search for veteran employment opportunities reveals state, national and private services available. In fact, one troubling reason employers gave CNAS for their failing to hire veterans centered on the fact that 25 percent of the employers struggled with where to look.
In an effort to cut through the confusion, Arai and the Workforce Development Division have been placing ads for years in local media, under the heading “Hire The Vet.” The ads provide a few sentences about individual veterans seeking employment, providing listings of their experience.