This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Dan Goldenberg, the Endowment's executive director.
A few months ago, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics said the unemployment rate for veterans remained below seven percent, which doesn’t sound so bad, right? Unfortunately, that statistic is extremely misleading. Did you know that after you stop collecting unemployment checks or if you work only part-time, the Department of Labor stops counting you as unemployed? You’re simply not counted anymore. Jim Clifton at Gallup calls this “the Big Lie,” and he’s right – we have a bigger unemployment problem than the government would like to admit, and the situation with veterans is even worse.
A 2015 report from Bureau of Labor says that young, post-9/11 veterans are three times more likely to be unemployed than the average American despite the fact their military skills, experience, and accomplishments are valued by the civilian job market. In fact, over half of separating post-9/11 veterans will face a period of unemployment. And, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, half of our veterans enter a period of unemployment at the exact moment when they transition out of the military. This is particularly significant now, as our military continues to draw down its forces—reducing them by more than 100,000 since 2011.
That’s a huge group of people experiencing unemployment and underemployment at a critical time in their careers and in their lives. And don’t let anyone fool you that it’s a good thing for transitioning service members to take substantial “down time” after service. Research tells us that idle minds can go to dark places and we can’t afford that in a country where 22 veterans take their lives daily. We can and should do better as a nation because these men and women have tremendous skills and experiences that can help our economy grow and our communities prosper.
At the Call of Duty Endowment, we’re doing our part. We are a non-profit co-founded by Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. Since 2009, applying a business approach to a social problem, we have helped over 17,000 veterans transition to high quality civilian careers. We advocate for veteran hiring among employers while finding and funding the top organizations that adequately prepare veterans for the job market.
We also started a program three years ago called the Seal of Distinction. This program, done in conjunction with Deloitte, recognizes best-in-class veteran-serving organizations that demonstrate effective, high quality and cost-efficient veteran job placement. The award, which includes a $30,000 prize and the opportunity to apply for additional funding, is the preeminent standard of excellence in the veterans’ employment sector. In fact, in the last year alone, organizations supported by the Endowment placed 7,773 veterans in jobs at an average cost-per-placement of $901 – less than one third the cost of federal government programs.
Applicants for the Seal of Distinction have to meet rigorous criteria to be considered, including opening their books to provide extensive documentation about their results in placing veterans in jobs. A sample of the metrics assessed include number of placements made, average cost per placement, average starting salary, six-month retention rate, key employee background checks, and a variety of organizational financial health indicators. All qualified applications are reviewed and evaluated by the Call of Duty Endowment’s outside Board of Advisors. Semi-finalists are then independently assessed on a pro bono basis by Deloitte and ultimately approved by the Endowment’s Board of Directors.
Needless to say, this is an impressive group of organizations doing exceptional work.
This year, our Seal of Distinction recipients are:
- Career Learning Employment Center for Veterans dba Operation: Job Ready Veterans, which provides employment transition programs and services in the Indiana area to ensure that veterans have the opportunity to realize their educational, employment and career goals. The team coaches its clients through creating a transition plan, preparing for interviews, working with recruiters, networking, and onboarding strategies. It also provides up to six months of follow-on employment and supportive services for clients.
- Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence, which provides “one-stop” transitional services in and around Colorado Springs, with a special emphasis on veterans, military personnel, and their families. Through its Peer Navigators Veteran Integration Program, the Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence provides individualized support to transitioning service members in their quest to find civilian employment. This assistance includes helping to define goals and objectives, providing resume and search assistance, honing interview skills, and coordinating networking events. It also delivers space, expertise, and other resources to veterans and the military community in collaboration with community partners.
- Paralyzed Veterans of America is a Washington, DC, based organization that aims to create an America where all veterans and people with disabilities, and their families, have everything they need to live full and rewarding lives, including employment. Through Operation PAVE, a vocational rehabilitation program, Paralyzed Veterans of America provides one-on-one career counseling and assistance to veterans and their families. All services, from resume assistance, interview preparation, vocational counseling, or employer networking are provided at no charge – and are available to dependents as well.
These organizations join an elite group of organizations making a major difference in the lives of our nation’s veterans. Past winners include:
- Able-Disabled Advocacy
- American Red Cross
- Career Source Palm Beach County
- Easter Seals of DC, MD and VA’s Veteran Staffing Network
- Hire Heroes USA
- Hiring Our Heroes
- National Able Network
- Project Renewal
- Salvation Army Haven
- Still Serving Veterans
- USC School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation and Research for Veterans and Military Families
- US Vets
- Veterans Inc.
- Veterans Leadership Program
As we recognize those who served in defense of America this Veterans Day, the Call of Duty Endowment wanted to highlight the organizations we work with that are doing incredible work supporting the veteran community. Making sure our veterans have meaningful employment is the single most important way to ensure a successful transition back to civilian life for most veterans, and we think it’s also one of the best ways to say thank you.
If you are a veteran looking for employment, please reach out to any of these organizations – they all stand ready to help.