Opening New Doors for Veterans in the Workplace
By: Lanän Clark
Unemployment is still a major economic issue that faces our communities there is one specific pool of underemployed, in particular, who should not be – not only because they are highly skilled, but also because of the debt of gratitude we as a nation owe them in serving our country. This group is military veterans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had an unemployment rate of 9 percent in 2013, compared to 7.2 percent of non-veterans.
Now the problem isn’t the fact that companies do not want to hire military veterans. They do and some of the top reasons companies hire veterans include leadership, teamwork skills, character, discipline, resiliency, and loyalty, according to a 2012 report which interviewed a variety of American businesses.
The problem lies in helping veterans translate their military skills to the workplace. This is especially difficult for veterans with military specific or technical skills that are now trying to find jobs in the private-sector such as finance but military skills do and can be translated.
For example, Bank of America hired a boiler technician who was a supervisor on an aircraft carrier. Why? As a supervisor, he had 27 direct reports and he had to make sure each one was trained and skilled to ensure that the ship didn’t lose steam. Based on his experience, he had the necessary skills for a managerial role and can be a valuable asset in any industry.
As a Navy veteran who has worked for Bank of America Merrill Lynch since 2003, I’ve had the experience working with executives on hiring, training, coaching and mentoring military veterans in the financial services industry, and I understand the importance of helping our veterans make this critical transition.
So how can the business community help hire more veterans?
A good place to start is by supporting workforce development programs offered by organizations such as Hiring Our Heroes, and Goodwill OC’s Boots to Suits Veterans and Working Wardrobes’ VetNet. These programs provide veterans with training in resume writing, how to fill out job applications, interview skills, and help them through their transition. With this type of training, veterans are able to market themselves and display many of the positive traits that increase their marketability to potential employers.
Bank of America has partnered with many organizations like these to recruit and hire veterans. Today, we currently employ nearly 7,000 veterans, Guard and Reservists.
So, let’s encourage more private sector support for those nonprofits working every day with military veterans to better transition into civilian life by way of high-wage jobs on par with their highly proficient and specialized work skills.
Lanän Clark is currently a Practice Management Consultant for the Southwest Market at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, based in Irvine. She resides in Mission Viejo with her husband and two children. She served in the United States Navy for eight years in the Active Reserves.