From Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment
I’m writing today as the Call of Duty Endowment’s new Executive Director. I take on this role with a firm sense of what it will take to improve job opportunities and success for veterans. The Endowment’s primary purpose will remain funding organizations that efficiently prepare veterans for and place them into high quality careers. To date we’ve worked on the supply side of the problem: funding five non-profits directly helping vets get ready for the job market. We plan to expand our investments in these and other non-profits significantly. Investment in preparing vets for the job market though is not enough. We need to also make inroads on the demand side, changing the conversation on veterans’ employment. This means convincing businesses why it’s in their interest to hire vets. To date, no one has compellingly made that argument.
In fact, today’s discussion is misguided. We recognize the facts, that 200,000+ veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan period have left the military in each of the last five years, entering a dismal job market. In 2012, there were 773,000 unemployed veterans. They struggle, and the youngest struggle the most. One out of every five veterans aged 18-24 was unemployed in 2012.
But to address this problem, even the most well-meaning people and organizations perpetuate a charitable or guilt-based rationale for hiring vets. If employers hesitate, their concerns are shouted down with demands for patriotism. That conversation misses the point.
Employers’ worries are often rooted in unfair stereotype, yes. They wrongly associate all veterans with debilitating conditions and constant medical appointments, with mental health battles such as post-traumatic stress disorder and with a rigid work mindset. They fear that veterans can only follow orders and that they cannot innovate.
The fact is that the vast majority of vets are ready and able to make a tremendous contribution in the business world. I’m not a politician or policy wonk saying this; I’m a veteran with over a decade of global business experience. And I know firsthand that we live in a market based, competitive economy.
The fact is, most employers want to do the right thing and deserve to be answered with something more than shaming. After all, no one should expect companies to hire employees who don’t contribute to the business’ success. And when you’re a small business, every new hire is risk. The perceived risks of hiring veterans need to be dispelled. The real advantages—not the hyperbole—need to be trumpeted.
The good news is that employers can serve both their country and their business. That’s because there is a better case, a business case, for hiring vets. And that conversation is worth having.
What I want to talk about, what we should all be talking about, is how veterans represent a vibrant, experienced work force that offers today’s employers unique, hard won skills and experience. Last year Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Familiesreleased a study on veterans’ capabilities that pinpointed several common characteristics. Veterans, the study noted, exhibit entrepreneurial spirit, advanced technical training, exceptional resiliency, superior team-building skills, and experience in diverse work environments. Know any companies looking for these attributes?
So, in the time ahead, I look forward to using this blog to highlight relevant news, to applaud thoughtful hiring practices, to analyze veterans’ employment trends and to explore, above all, how we can connect skilled, job-seeking veterans with the businesses that need them.
I look forward to a new conversation.