Yesterday, I was moved to tears during a speech by Col. David W. Sutherland about veterans returning from heroic feats on the battlefield to face indifferent or non-comprehending communities and employers here in the U.S. From glances at conference attendees around me, I was not the only one touched by the plight of highly skilled members of the military who go from knowing exactly what to do in a war situation, to facing the cruel open-endedness of a job hunt at a time of still-high unemployment.
Sutherland, special assistant to the chairman of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a compelling case for hiring the disciplined and experienced returning veterans, despite the effort it may take to accommodate their needs and understand their situations. "We don't need a handout but we do need a hand up," he told the room full of human resources professionals attending a flexible work conference. "This generation of veterans is wired to succeed."
A just-released report on veterans' employment by the Families and Work Institute and Society for Human Resource Management, which co-sponsored the conference, highlights some success stories of employers who are offering veterans affinity groups, counseling, newsletters, extended leave and even a grant for employees who face sudden emergencies. But these bright spots appear on a backdrop of higher unemployment among veterans than the civilian population. The report noted unemployment rates of 18.8 percent for veterans who left the service after 2001, 21.3 percent for veterans separating in 2006 or later and 28.5 percent for veterans aged 18 to 30 years old.
So this Veteran's Day, whether you're a hiring manager or simply a homeowner looking for a vendor to clean your gutters or winterize your home, why not consider a military veteran? As Sutherland pointed out, they're trained by the soldier's creed to place the mission first, never accept defeat and never quit. "No other employee in the world guarantees their job with their life," he said. "These are the men and women in the U.S. military and they're phenomenal and they're coming home to your communities."
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