08/30/2013 08:34 pm ET Updated Oct 30, 2013

Let's Give Veterans Something to Celebrate Next Labor Day

Labor Day was instituted to commemorate the economic and social contributions of U.S. workers. Most of us see the three-day holiday weekend as a much-needed break from work, and a time to relax with family and friends. But for the thousands of veterans still struggling to find jobs, the holiday has little meaning.

Recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that veteran unemployment rates are improving, yet the numbers don't paint the full picture. Some subgroups of veterans -- such as females, and those aged 18-24 -- still experience higher rates of unemployment than non-veterans. The latest data on the youngest veterans, who account for just over seven percent of post-9/11 veterans -- have similar limitations. Their unemployment rate was 18.5 percent, 3 percent higher than non-veterans in that age group, and even if this isn't statistically significant, it is still critical to get these men and women into good-paying jobs so that they can provide for their families. This is a top priority for Goodwill®. Our approach is two-fold: provide programs and supports that improve a veteran's ability to successfully re-enter the civilian workforce, and educate employers about the benefits of hiring job candidates who are highly skilled and extremely motivated to work.

As a leader in job training and career services, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to step up to do more for our returning service members. We've served more than 103,000 veterans and military family members with job training and placement services as part of the "Goodwill for America's Heroes and Their Families" initiative. The initiative was a proactive action in regard to the First Lady's Joining Forces campaign. We've also hired more than 1,800 veterans and their family members into our own organizations or helped them find stable employment in their own communities.

In June, Goodwill announced its commitment to providing 3,000 women veterans with services and supports that can help them find jobs and overcome challenges that impede their families' path to economic self-sufficiency. This effort builds on the success of Operation: GoodJobs, a holistic program funded by the Walmart Foundation that integrates career services and family financial fitness resources.

Time and time again, veterans prove themselves to be highly capable and motivated to enter the workforce. Most carry over specialized skills and training from their service, and demonstrate high levels of leadership, loyalty and dependability -- traits that every employer values.

So why are record numbers of veterans still searching for jobs? Tom Tarantino, retired U.S. Army captain and chief policy officer at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, posits one explanation in an opinion column at Time online. He wrote, "This is one of the first generations of business leaders that largely didn't serve in the military, which poses real cultural barriers to understanding military skills and experience."

Because Goodwill is located in every state and in cities small and large, we are uniquely positioned to work with local business communities to educate them about the value of hiring veterans. Our career service specialists often rely on Business Advisory Groups to tailor job training and other programs. Hiring veterans is a win-win situation for everyone: employers get qualified workers, veterans earn a paycheck and provide for their families, and communities grow stronger.

What's your role in moving veterans into the workforce? By shopping at and donating to Goodwill, you are in essence a job creator. Eighty-two percent of revenues from our donated goods retail operations fund critical programs and services, like those we provide to veterans and other vulnerable populations such as no-cost education, dress etiquette, skills training, housing assistance, primary health care, vocational rehabilitation, and other services. And if you're an employer, take a chance on a veteran the next time a position becomes available. Perhaps by the time the next Labor Day rolls around, the day will hold special significance for the men and women who've selflessly served our country.