The Importance of Veterans in Your Ranks

By Michael E. Echols, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Bellevue University

Our nation’s veterans are in the news, with individuals deployed for duty coming home and struggling to find traction in the civilian workforce. According to labor statistics, veterans have higher unemployment rates than the general population. They may also be underemployed — languishing in positions that don’t take advantage of the very skills most businesses say they need most today.

In fact, the 2012 PwC 15th Annual CEO Survey reports that more than half of the more than 1,250 company leaders polled cited a lack of key skills among veterans as a major challenge for their organizations. Only 30 percent said they are confident they will have access to the talent they need over the next three years.

In short, the talent crisis is no longer a problem for the future. It is here now, threatening business growth and economic prosperity. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, increased workforce demands and critical budget pressures, the heat is on. And this is why identifying and developing the veterans in your ranks is key.

Bringing Assets to Your Organization

Veterans bring significant abilities and assets to your organization. They have received incredible training and have performed under pressure in some of the toughest conditions, so you can understand the important skills they bring to your organization, including:

* Character

* Teamwork

* Focus

* Discipline

* Dedication

* Loyalty

* Work ethic

“These are employees who are dedicated and who have achieved great things under impossible conditions,” says Chad Storlie, a retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Special Forces, author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and one of the subject-matter experts we consult.

In The Center for a New American Society’s Employing America’s Veterans: Perspectives from Businesses, the organization conducted confidential interviews with representatives — from HR officers to CEOs — from 69 organizations of varying sizes. The qualitative study echoes Storlie’s thinking, listing the reasons why companies say they may hire veterans. The most commonly cited reasons include:

* Leadership/teamwork skills (70 percent)

* Character (49 percent)

* Structure/discipline (41 percent)

* Expertise (38 percent)

* Ability to work in a dynamic environment (28 percent)

But here’s the challenge. The same study cited the reasons companies might not hire veterans:

* Trouble with skills translation (60 percent)

* Skills mismatch (42 percent)

* Negative stereotypes (56 percent)

* Deployments (37 percent)

* Acclimation (30 percent)

* Inability to find them (25 percent)

Clearly there is a gap between the recognition of veterans’ strengths and the ability to develop those strengths to fit the needs of the company.

The Real Issue: Access to Education

The stark truth about veterans is that they are undereducated, so an accelerant to translating skills to your corporate needs is education. HR professionals know this and the government knows this — that’s why they offer GI Bill education benefits. The 2011 education report relays that, while more than half of American job openings require a bachelor’s degree, only 21 percent of veterans had earned them.

Bridging the Gap

Founded in part to serve the military service members of the Air Force’s 55th Wing and U.S. Strategic Command, Bellevue University is an expert in adult learning, and in serving those who serve. We’re also a leader in corporate learning, having formed partnerships with Fortune 1000 companies across the nation and receiving accolades from the top major learning and development organizations.

We have the experience, programs, people and — importantly — the passion to develop veterans. Our mission is to innovate and invest in ways that help these men and women have an educational experience that enables them to define for themselves and their loved ones a purposeful, fulfilling civilian life.

That’s why we stood up the Veterans Initiative for Advancement, or VIA, an unprecedented suite of services that makes it possible for veterans to access career-relevant education, the funding for that education and the support they need to succeed.

We work with you to identify corporate knowledge and skills gaps and help you identify the veterans in your organizations who have the skills and potential to fill those gaps. We offer learning programs that provide veteran employees relevant, working knowledge. As an accredited university and leader in online learning, we can help your veterans earn their college degrees with funding from the GI Bill Education benefit. Plus, your veteran employees receive the full support of the veterans on our advising staff, who help them stay on target.

If you have a veterans’ advancement program in place, we are eager to help you advance it to the next level. If you need to stand one up, we will partner with you to design and deploy one.

“When you start with the experiences veterans bring to the workforce [and] combine education, passion and a way for them to translate their military skills to the needs of the organization, you will have an employee base and a business without equal,” says Storlie.

About Russ Hovendick

My name is Russ Hovendick and my life has centered on helping others. To me there is no greater fulfillment than being able to play a part in positively impacting an individual's life. Connect with Russ on Google+

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