Solving Veteran Unemployment

08/12/2011 01:49 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2011

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, returning veterans face rising unemployment rates that far exceed their civilian counterparts. There are many new government initiatives to address the problem of veteran unemployment including the VOW- Veterans Opportunity to Work Act introduced to the house by Republican VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller of Florida. This Act will make it mandatory that all the men and women leaving active duty participate in transition assistance programs (TAP). Chairman Jeff Miller: "Veterans have the leadership, integrity and ingenuity employers often seek. But in today's job market, there is a disconnect translating the experiences that hail from the battlefield to Main Street USA. The breadth of the joblessness problem in today's economy requires that more must be done, and that is where the VOW Act comes in - it provides the skills and training for veterans to compete in today's job market." Hiring Our Heroes is a series of one hundred career fairs that is sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Department of Labor Veterans and Employment and Training Service DOL-VETS, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve ESGR and many of the local Chambers around the country. These are tremendous efforts, but it's not enough to let the government shoulder the issue alone.

Milicruit, a fully-interactive, online career fair for veterans and military spouses, has been developed by UBM Studios to bring a fresh approach to connecting military-friendly employers with veterans and military spouses. The Milicruit service is unique because it allows a soldier or spouse to meet with an employer back home while they may be still stationed or deployed overseas; a wounded warrior has the same opportunity even while they're rehabbing and recovering. Milicruit is proud to support the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces Initiative which is a national initiative that mobilizes all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.

On June 23rd, Milicruit hosted a nationwide virtual career fair that drew over 80 Fortune 1,000 employers, but more importantly, over 21,000 veterans and military spouses from all over the world attended. The perpetual Milicruit environment is available 24/7/365 for active duty personnel, veterans and military spouses to browse and apply to job postings and send messages to recruiters. Candidates can visit on any day to see when employers will be online to meet with them and answer questions live via chat. In addition to the quarterly national career fairs, Milicruit also hosts regionally-focused fairs where employers can focus on recruiting in 3-4 states at a time. Milicruit will also host the next national career fair on September 12th in honor and recognition of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.

More and more organizations that do business with the federal government are finding it difficult and confusing when recruiting or hiring veterans. Much of this confusion stems from compliance requirements from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs the requirements for recruiting and hiring veterans. One area of confusion concerns practices for accepting hard copy resumes in person. As a result, employers pay to participate in traditional career fairs, send staff and marketing materials and provide information about their organization to the veteran but ultimately tell candidates to "go back home and apply online." This strategy helps employers capture data for EEOC or OFCCP compliance, but it is increasingly frustrating for candidates and draws out the hiring process.

In that way Milicruit provides a valuable service for employers as well. Not only does the online environment allow recruiters to accept résumés and speak to candidates all in one place, but, with the help of our strategic government partnerships, we've received guidance in making the system compliant with government regulations. We also partner with organizations like The Value of a Veteran that provide resources for employers who want to seriously adopt a military hiring strategy. They provide simple information to help companies recruit, hire and retain outstanding military talent.

Many of our political leaders agree that we, as a country, must address the problem of veteran unemployment, but executing on that idea takes a lot more than speeches. It will take the entire country to deal with this issue, but the problem is not insurmountable. By combining every effort, no matter how small, we can come together to make a difference. One employer partnership is a small step, but with more than 90 industry leading employers, and the support of several government agencies, our small step is developing into giant a leap. I think it's safe to say that any smart-minded business owner would hire a veteran, but we challenge companies to do more: we challenge them to actively recruit veterans.

As Mrs. Obama stated, "Jill and I believe that everyone - everyone - can do something, even boys and girls," "Everyone can do something to support a military family, and everyone can ask themselves, 'What can I do? How can I give back?'"