John Reynolds

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How can we, as a nation of do-gooders and bureaucrats, best solve the problem of high unemployment among returning veterans?

In 236 years of nationhood, we have yet to solve the problem of high unemployment among returning veterans. Today, younger vets face an unemployment rate approaching 30%. Some of this is explained by the fact that veterans don't know how to sell themselves to corporate America, who, in turn, has little concept of how these people can contribute. Yet these veterans are the flower of our society. They've demonstrated dedication, teamwork, leadership, mission focus and, above all, a drive to serve. Why are we not hiring these men and women? We have resources and we have the will to help. What's the best way to serve those who serve us?

  • Dec 3 2012: "How can we, as a nation of do-gooders and bureaucrats, best solve the problem of high unemployment among returning veterans?

    Why are we not hiring these men and women?"

    There's a huge mismatch between what low-ranking veterans are trained for and what the economy need. Another problem is that there may simply not be enough jobs, at least with the current length of the workweek. The standard economics rebuttal of "just increase economic output to create more jobs" doesn't work in the face of grueling competition with the rest of a growing world over finite natural resources.
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    Dec 3 2012: Here is some advice from a couple of veterans currently studying at Wharton Business school, writing for the Veteran's Administration about how veterans can try to communicate their capabilities and also fill gaps between what they can offer and what employers want: http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/7232/5-reasons-why-employers-are-not-hiring-vets/
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    Dec 2 2012: Many companies (mostly big ones) publicize a veteran hiring preference. Too few meet that promise.

    The job market is still bad, but that doesn't explain the gap between vets and non-vets in the same age group.

    Your second point applies only to companies that don't understand the value of veterans' experience, hiring for aptitude and training for skills. This requires a longer view, but has huge payoffs for patient employers.

    As for government programs, I should have said "well funded" [bureaucrats] to emphasize that we're throwing public resources (such as the one you cite) at this problem. Governmental efforts, however, are not taken seriously by vets. That's because those who administer programs, well meaning as they are, don't have private sector experience. As for financial incentives, it's the big companies that tend to take advantage of them. Small businesses -- those that will do most of the hiring -- aren't swayed by incentives.
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    Dec 2 2012: When you ask why we are not hiring these men and women, are you assuming there is a bias against hiring them? Like TED Lover, I thought many hiring processes have a veteran's preference.

    Still, I think there are two big issues. One is that the job market is very bad right now, so it is not as if others are getting hired right and left but not veterans. It is difficult for everyone.

    Second, employers can afford to be very selective, hiring those whose skills and experience seem best matched to the job at hand. Veterans are competing against others who also can demonstrate team work, focus, and a drive to serve as well as the ability to think for themselves in a variety of situations relevant to the workplace.

    What sorts of job search assistance and training does the Veterans Administration offer to returning veterans? I would have thought these services would be more available than to other unemployed people. Here is a link to such services that are uniquely available to veterans: http://vetsuccess.gov
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    Gail .

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    Dec 2 2012: Your question confuses me, because I thought that veterans were always given priority.

    Still, the ultimate way we can end high unemployment among veterans is to end war. This is possible, but the cure is not popular.

    (I do not see veterans as the "flower" of our society. Just another cog in a complex time-piece)