Unemployment is one of the principle challenges our veterans face upon transitioning from active duty to the civilian sector. Even though large businesses have joined veteran hiring coalitions or have started "vet friendly" initiatives, most are ineffective. Some large employers still assume veterans do not have the proper skill set for jobs outside of law enforcement, security, aviation or medicine, making it difficult for veterans to find work in the field of their choice. Even if large employers forewent their hiring biases, it would still be difficult for veterans to find work in Corporate America because these businesses don't have the resources available to handle the influx of veterans. This is why small businesses could have the highest impact on the nearly one million transitioning service members within the next five years, placing them in a variety of fields, including sales, accounting, marketing and even journalism.
With about twenty-three million registered small businesses within the United States -- accounting for sixty-four percent of all new job creation -- small businesses should become the most viable employment solution for our vets. The greatest challenge veterans will face is enticing small businesses to hire them by demonstrating how their military experience is applicable to the job for which they are applying.
Small businesses need employees who can do more with less, as they are usually cash-strapped and under-resourced. This is why hiring veterans is a strategic advantage, not just charity. The small business work environment is perfectly suited for veterans since their military careers force them to find ways to make do with the resources given. U.S. Army Infantrymen, for example, learned valuable skills through their missions in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) in which they planned complex military operations, gathered intelligence on high value targets, negotiated with Afghani locals and led teams ranging from three to forty-eight. This valuable military experience gives veterans highly translatable sales, operational and interpersonal skills, allowing them to find success anywhere in the corporate world. Melissa McMahone, the senior director of talent acquisition for the tech company CDW, said it best in regards to hiring veterans when she said at the American Express OPEN Forum blog, "they know what it is like to work in a fast-paced and results-driven environment." Hiring veterans is just good business.
In addition to the valuable skills that a vet can offer small businesses, there are some financial benefits to hiring a vet as well -- many of which small business owners are unaware. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), for example -- created by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) -- incentivizes businesses to hire veterans by granting employers up to $9,400 in tax credits. There is also the Special Employer Incentive (SEI) program, in which Veterans Affairs reimburses up to fifty percent of a veteran's salary for up to six months, making the financial advantages clear for those businesses willing to put forth the effort.
The ultimate goal is to educate small business owners on both the applicable skills that veterans possess and the financial benefits of hiring one.
Taylor Justice is a U.S. Army Veteran and Chief Business Officer of Unite Us, a technology platform that connects the military community to occupational resources