Every year, nearly 200,000 veterans transition out of the U.S. military after completing their service with the armed forces. As thousands of former servicemen and servicewomen adapt from military life into the civilian workforce, it’s important that we do our part to support those who have served us so bravely by helping to ease their transition.
Prior to a 39-year career in the restaurant and foodservice industry, I spent 3.5 years as an infantry officer in the United States Army from 1962-1965. Serving in the military was the foundation for my success. It taught me discipline and decisiveness. It taught me loyalty and dedication above all else and it gave me the confidence and leadership skills to have a successful, rewarding career in an industry that welcomes veterans and values our skills the skills that come with serving our country.
America’s veterans are highly skilled and proven leaders, ideally suited management and supervisory positions. Veterans bring impressive resumes to the table with valuable experience in training others, performing under stress, critical thinking, and leadership -- all skills that are particularly high in demand for retail and restaurant businesses across the country. In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey cites retail as one of the top four industries employing veterans. Research by the National Restaurant Association finds that nearly 250,000 veterans work in the restaurant industry, with 19 percent in management positions and 14 percent working as supervisors.
The National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) supports servicemen and women, veterans and their spouses by providing training and promoting restaurant career opportunities. Additionally, its Armed Forces Forum for Culinary Excellence brings together outstanding veterans for hands-on cooking activities, interactive seminars and mentoring and career-coaching sessions. The National Retail Federation Foundation provides helpful information for veteran-job seekers to learn more about retail industry offerings via its Veterans Resources page, as well as education for retailers to learn more about why veterans make retail businesses stronger through its Retailer Resources page.
Fortunately, tremendous opportunities and tools also exist to help veterans translate military experience into the professional workforce within service industry businesses both large and small. In 2013, Walmart and Sam’s Club launched the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment to hire 250,000 veterans by 2020. Since the program’s founding, Walmart has already hired over 130,000 veterans. Additionally, service sector companies such as Dunkin’ Brands, Toys R Us, and Office Depot are part of the Veteran Jobs Mission, a coalition founded in 2011 to hire 100,000 veterans and help them overcome the barrier of unemployment. In the 5 years since the coalition’s inception, it has grown to include over 230 companies that have combined to hire 347,694 veterans, as of June 2016.
Washington, DC’s Dog Tag Bakery hires almost exclusively among veterans with service-related disabilities. The bakery provides a five-month training program in partnership with Georgetown University and offers disabled veterans who might find themselves on an even more difficult path to employment an opportunity to learn how to apply skills they developed in the military to running a business, managing staff and how to market a product.
This year, U.S. Department of Labor data revealed that the unemployment rate among veterans fell to 4.6 percent for all American veterans, its lowest level in seven years. While there are encouraging signs that show the positive impact of both government policies and private sector programs that connect veterans to the workforce, there is still more work needed to make sure that every veteran has ample jobs support.
That’s why this Veteran’s Day and every day, it’s imperative that we honor those who have served our nation in uniform by ensuring that opportunities exist for all of our veterans to succeed in the workforce, and climb the ladder to rewarding career.