Despite recent job growth across our nation, military veterans still face unique challenges as they enter the workforce. Nine percent of veterans who joined the armed forces since 2001, but have now returned to civilian life, are still unemployed. One of every two veterans who has transitioned from the military in the last 5 years is unemployed.
These statistics should tell anyone in business one thing: Despite the success many companies have had in hiring veterans, we still have a lot of work to do to make things right.
In his State of the Union address on January 20, President Obama agreed, encouraging businesses to embrace the example of companies like UPS when it comes to hiring veterans.
“Tonight, I’m also asking more businesses to follow the lead of companies like CVS and UPS, and offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships — opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education,” the president said.
The president also mentioned the Joining Forces Initiative, a program UPS is supporting through its commitment to hiring more than 50,000 veterans by 2018. UPS also committed to serve more than 50,000 employee volunteer hours helping veterans and Veterans Service Organizations.
“Joining Forces, the national campaign launched by Michelle and Jill Biden, has helped nearly 700,000 veterans and military spouses get new jobs,” the president said. “So to every CEO in America, let me repeat: If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done, hire a veteran.”
From our experience, hiring a veteran starts by committing to a better understanding – and appreciation – for the skills veterans offer.
UPS employs more than 24,000 veterans and they represent 7.5 percent of our workforce in the United States. Veterans are sorting packages in our hubs. They’re driving our package cars. They’re flying our fleet of aircraft. They’re contributing to our success in every corner of our business.
We’re proud of our track record when it comes to hiring veterans. But we don’t think it’s enough simply to hire a veteran. If that’s all a company is doing, it’s doing a disservice to the veteran and its business.
For most of our positions these days, we’re looking for leadership, technical expertise, grace under pressure, a mission-oriented mindset, diverse points of view and problem-solving abilities. We find those skills and values in the DNA of veterans.
Once we find those veterans, we want them to use their skills to adapt to the corporate world. But businesses can take a few pointers in helping them assimilate into a new culture that is different from military life.
A piece of paper shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
Most hiring managers haven’t walked in a veteran’s boots. And they may not understand how a veteran’s skills apply to the business world. So when anyone in business talks about understanding culture, they should know that’s a two-way street. We need to understand a veteran’s culture as much as they need to understand ours.
As the military draws down troop levels in the coming years, hundreds of thousands of veterans will need a job. More than that, they’ll need a place to start a career.
The men and women who have served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps have done their part. Now it’s our turn to step up and make an investment in their futures – and in ours.
UPS recently doubled its commitment to hiring and volunteer service to veterans as part of the “Joining Forces” initiative. Our hiring commitment now stands at 50,000 veterans and our service commitment at 50,000 employee volunteer hours by the end of 2018.
We’re well on our way. But I encourage people to look past the numbers. Because this is about more than numbers – it’s about an investment in the future of a special group of people.
Veterans deserve an opportunity to pursue their goals and contribute as much as their potential allows. That means more than a job – that means a career. A career starts with a job, but it grows with new opportunities. It’s made more challenging with added responsibility; it’s made more fulfilling when goals are reached and recognized.
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