Business Forum: Hiring a veteran makes good business sense
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At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we are stubbornly focused on jobs -- saving them, creating them and filling them with America's best and brightest. A centerpiece of our jobs agenda is creating employment opportunities for veterans and military spouses.
As these men and women who have served our nation with dedication and distinction return home to their neighborhoods and families, the business community wants to make their transition back into civilian life as smooth as possible. And one of the most important ways to do that is through -- what else? -- jobs.
But chronically high unemployment has led to a chilly jobs market, and veterans and military spouses are suffering at an outsize rate. Nationwide, 1 million veterans are jobless and 1 of every 4 military spouses is without work.
Post-9/11 veterans are having the most difficulty, with younger veterans aged 18 to 24 facing a staggering 30 percent unemployment rate. Members of the National Guard and Reserve face an unemployment rate of 14 percent nationally.
Roughly 1 million men and women in uniform and their families will leave active duty over the next five years. In Pennsylvania, more than 34,000 veterans are unemployed and, with the recently announced drawdown of the armed forces, the numbers are likely to grow dramatically.
The case for hiring our heroes is an easy one. They have sacrificed for our nation, and our nation should honor their sacrifices with opportunities. Hiring veterans is the right thing to do.
But for businesses, it's also the smart thing to do.
Veterans are attractive job candidates. Employers know they're dealing with disciplined individuals who have proven their work ethic and commitment through their service. They've gone through extensive technical training and have sharpened their skills in duty. Problem-solving is at the core of their skill set. They are able to lead and to work in a team environment, and are by necessity flexible and adaptive.
When you factor in the widening skills gap in America that veterans are uniquely positioned to fill, the case becomes even more compelling. Ninety percent of military occupations are directly transferable to the private sector.
But one of the biggest challenges facing veterans is demonstrating how skills they've honed in the military are transferable to civilian work. Take a chief petty officer who serves as a cook on a Naval ship. He must be an adept inventory manager and able logistician. That kind of experience is highly sought after in the private sector -- and not just any applicant has it.
Military spouses have many of the same qualities and have demonstrated strength and resilience in the face of adversity. They are also one of the most educated populations in the country.
In March 2011, the chamber launched a nationwide campaign to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment in local communities across America. In less than a year, we have held more than 100 hiring fairs with 5,000 different employers in 45 states and the District of Columbia. More than 8,400 veterans and military spouses have gotten jobs.
This week, I was thrilled to be in my native Pittsburgh as our program begins its second year with a pledge to host hiring fairs in 400 communities. We are working to create a movement that helps thousands more men and women who have protected our freedoms to find jobs.
There's a saying that businesses that do well do good. In other words, prosperity leads to generosity. Businesses can do well and do good simultaneously by adding the qualified, highly trained men and women who have served in the U.S. military to their staffs and payrolls.
Hiring veterans makes sense. And it's an important step toward bringing down unemployment across America.
First Published March 10, 2012 12:00 am