Despite falling veteran unemployment rates, challenges persist in transition to civilian workforce

January 09, 2018

Man in suitAccording to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), the national veteran unemployment rate is currently 3.8 percent, the lowest December veteran unemployment rate in over a decade. Additionally, Gulf War II-era veterans (those who served after September 11, 2001) showed a rate of 3.3 percent for the month.

Despite record lows and a consistent drop since 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the data may not be giving a full picture of veterans in the workforce. Many veterans still struggle with employment for many reasons. Often a veteran has never looked for work in the civilian job market. Sometimes a job may not be utilizing all the skills a veteran has developed during military service, or a job simply may not be making ends meet. Sometimes veterans are not interested in finding civilian work related to their roles in the military, so must start over on a new educational or career path.

While many companies see the value of hiring veterans, even companies with a commitment to veteran employment services experience challenges. Few of these companies have tracked the job performance or career progression of veteran employees after hiring, a lack of data that makes it difficult for companies to make the business case for hiring more veterans. Similarly, while the federal government and private sector have invested in many initiatives to improve veteran employment opportunities, there has been little research or analysis of the impact of those initiatives.

In workforce development, we help service members to translate their skills to the civilian workforce. In 2015, The RAND Corporation (a nonpartisan research organization) released an article about veterans transitioning to the workplace. According to the article, one of the challenges for veterans finding work is in trying to translate their military work experience to civilian job requirements. This can sometimes mean a veteran is underemployed or working a job for which they are overqualified.

Tools like SDWP’s Career Coach have tools that can help veterans to find their next career step, based on their military occupational specialty code.

In 2011, Pew Research Center surveyed 1,853 veterans regarding challenges to transition from military to civilian life. Results indicated veterans with the following factors had an easier time transitioning into civilian life:

  • Commissioned officers
  • Those who had graduated from college
  • Clear understanding of their missions while in the military
  • Veterans post-9/11 who attended religious services at least once a week

In San Diego County, there were approximately 500 veterans who actively received services at one of the America’s Job Center of California locations during program year 2016–17, or about eight percent of people receiving services that year. The good news is, eighty-two percent of veterans who exited our services in 2016–17 were placed in jobs within one year.

Since those who graduated from college have a leg up when transitioning into civilian service, it may be helpful for transitioning veterans to use their GI education benefits to pursue a post-secondary certificate or degree. Thanks to recent changes in the law, veterans now have more time and opportunity to use these benefits. The America’s Job Center of California locations welcome veterans, all of whom qualify for priority of services, including a comprehensive assessment of education, skills and abilities, assistance with developing an individual employment plan and employment goals, career counseling and labor market information, job-readiness workshops, job referrals and job development opportunities with potential employers.