Veterans face challenges translating service to employment


On this Veterans Day, CivSource wants to extend its thanks and gratitude to those who have served.

Now that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, Veterans returning home will be faced with a number of challenges returning to civilian life. One of the biggest challenges will be joining the already large pool of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed. As Congress seems to be focused on creating economic uncertainty instead of jobs, veterans will have to take it upon themselves to find ways of translating their military service into a marketable resume. New research from Accenture shows that for those that can tell their story well, a decent job may be waiting.

According to the survey, younger service members recently back from being deployed will face the toughest road finding employment. Among the unemployed respondents in the survey, 70% of those who were deployed overseas said they had served in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, compared to about 50% of the employed veterans. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the average unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans in 2012 was approximately 10%, about two points above the national average, and for unemployed veterans under the age of 25 it was closer to 20%. In some cases, unemployment is a hardship that impacts the whole family, as more than a quarter (26%) of the married jobless veterans surveyed also have an unemployed spouse.

Unemployed veterans that responded to the survey said they were willing to take lower paying jobs, jobs without benefits, change their field or go back to school if it meant getting a job. 34% of this group had been unemployed for over a year. The unemployed survey participants said they had applied for 30 positions, on average, which led to just six interviews but no jobs. Given the drop in real wages in America, taking a job with lower pay could mean signing on to a lifetime of depressed wages relative to what they could be making as upward wage mobility looks increasingly like a dream from the past.

When they are successful, veterans say their military service is the top factor in landing a civilian job. For those that secured positions in the same career field as their military service, 74% say they are earning $50,000 or more annually compared to those who chose to work in a different field.

The magic formula seems to be a combination of additional education and job interview training upon returning home. The survey also found that nearly three-out-of-four employed veterans said they received additional training or education following their military service, underscoring that the combination of military experience plus education and training have a critical impact on helping veterans find work.

As a total population, veterans have a higher rate of employment and wages than non-veterans according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the BLS. Research from the VA estimates that male veterans earn roughly 11 percent more than their civilian counterparts and female veterans about 19 percent more than non-veterans. 260,000 veterans per year are expected to enter the civilian workforce over the next four years.