January 6, 2012
By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON — The large number of veterans coming out of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are a good resource for American businesses looking for great employees, said an Army Reserve general.
About 20 million veterans now reside in the United States, said Maj. Gen. Keith Thurgood, chief of staff, U.S. Army Reserve Command. The unemployment rate for those veterans that are coming out of recent conflicts is about 14-18 percent.
“For some of the generational cohorts, veterans in the 18-24-year-old range, that unemployment is nearly three times the national average,” Thurgood said. The national unemployment rate is about 9 percent now.
So many veterans available for work, Thurgood said, is “an opportunity for the nation,” because veterans have skill sets that are usable by any business.
“The Army does two things really well that every business wants,” he said. “They deliver results, and they produce leaders — they fill the leadership pipeline. If you were to take those two characteristics, and take them to a business, I guarantee you that Soldier, that veteran, can start to make an immediate impact on the business’ results.”
Matching Soldiers with businesses that can benefit from the unique characteristics Soldiers bring to the table — integrity coupled with an understanding of discipline, respect, diversity and the importance of collaboration, along with the ability to think strategically and act tactically — is what the Reserve component is doing with the online “Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces” website, at https://www.employerpartnership.org/.
Right now, Thurgood said, there are only about 36,000 registered users on the website.
“We’ve got over 600,000 jobs that we could fill today, if we had the right people,” he said. “We’re not trying to create magic here. We’re trying to take the supply, the resources we have, and match them with a known demand.”
Thurgood said there are about 2,500 employers partnered with the Reserve via that website, and he said response from the employers has been good.
“They are very, very happy with the quality of people they are getting and the ease with which we can do business,” he said.
The Reserve component also has program service mangers in specific regions across the United States, about two dozen of them, who are working to connect veterans who need a job with private sector human resource professionals that are looking for employees. Thurgood said the Reserve is working to expand that force of service managers.
Why veterans have a more difficult time finding work when they leave the service is a two-fold problem — and part of that is based on Soldier’s humility, Thurgood said.
“If you think about the culture of the United States Army, by and large, the force is what I would describe as a humble force,” Thurgood said. “Soldiers are not used to talking about themselves and making themselves look better. It is about discipline, it is about the team, it is about accomplishing the mission. And we collectively are only a small piece of that. There’s a little bit of reluctance to say ‘I’m actually good.’ And these Soldiers are good.”
So Soldiers, Thurgood said, have a hard time selling themselves in the job market. They also have a hard time knowing how to translate the skills they learned in the Army to skills that employers want in the private sector.
Thurgood said the Army can bolster its programs designed to help Soldiers make that transition from the Army to the private sector — programs like the Transition Assistance Program.
“I think there is some more structure we need to put around TAPS,” he said. “If you start to integrate all these activities in a way that makes sense, you’ve really got a good framework that can be good for the nation and good for our Soldiers.”