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Veterans, Lost and Found in Translation

11/12/2012 02:08 pm ET | Updated Jan 12, 2013

"Translating military experience to civilian experience is kind of...nerve-racking."
- Transitioning Soldier, Three Months From Separation, August 29, 2012; Fort Bragg, NC

"It's tough for me to present myself in my resume, or just to show an employer, in general, what I do."
- Disabled Veteran, Four Years Since Separation, August 29, 2012; Fort Bragg, NC


In 2011, post-9/11 male veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 faced an unemployment rate of 29 percent. In March of this year, post-9/11 veterans ages 20 to 24 were suffering from an unemployment rate of 36 percent which is double the rate of males in that demographic in the general population.

Think about that for a moment. Can you imagine a young person, after serving their country in very dangerous situations for a modest paycheck, coming home to an environment where around a third of his or her friends can't find a decent job? The hope for many of these young adults is that by doing the right thing and serving their county, they would gain tremendous skills and be more likely to find a great job. What a rude awakening.

Now consider that there are 1.5 million veterans looking for a job right now and that approximately 250,000 individuals will transition out of the military in the next couple of years. Piling on, the looming January 2 Sequestration deadline threatens $500 billion in Pentagon budget cuts, and, oh yeah, the economy. We certainly hope these factors do not forecast a perfect storm driving up veteran unemployment rates to record levels.

The good news is that this crisis has triggered the genesis of some phenomenal programs, many based on technology, that are not only helping veterans find jobs, but also addressing the underlying root of the problem: military skills translation and skills gap recognition and certification.

A few prominent examples are the 100,000 Jobs Mission founded by JP Morgan Chase, Cisco and others. This coalition, now boasting 80+ corporate members has pledged to hire 100,000 veterans by 2020. Another program is the Get Skills To Work initiative founded by GE, which joins major manufacturers and educators to prepare and place veterans in long-term careers. With an estimated 600,000 open advanced manufacturing jobs across America, this program is committed to closing the gap and creating new futures for those who worked to make ours better. The program, in cooperation with the Manufacturing Institute, is standardizing certification and is awarding badges to job seekers based on their military training.

IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and American Corporate Partners are connecting vets to even broader opportunities such as counseling, mentorships and training opportunities. I'm proud to say that Futures Inc. is a key player behind the scenes, providing the backbone from a technology perspective for all the efforts mentioned above. Our skills taxonomy and latticing engine, based on structured data, is translating our nation's veterans' skills, interests, education and Military Occupation Codes into a language that employers can understand. From the employer perspective, the same structured data approach is yielding matched and ranked candidates who best fit their high-demand job types. (The language barriers go both ways.)

Our skills matching technology is being leveraged for job fairs as well. We are doing our best to sunset the traditional "cattle-call" job fair, which has historically been a frustrating experience for our veterans. Sure, they receive a dozen new pens and mouse pads... but how many interviews and offers are really received at those events?

We're convinced that our skills matching process, in advance of these fairs, or hiring events as we call them, is expediting the path to employment for our veterans. In a recent report for the Army, they analyzed the results of three recent hiring events Futures, Inc. supported in 2012 at bases across the country. The results were stunning: For those candidates who registered in advance and were eligible to be pre-matched, the average offer to candidate ratio was 54 percent!

The directive is to push forward with a tenacious focus on fixing the problem that is veteran unemployment, underemployment and skills translation. The message today to veterans as well as to military-friendly employers, who have good intentions but have trouble executing, is that there are people, programs and companies out here dedicating our lives to the effort... and making progress.

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