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November 8, 2021

By Charlene Autolino, Chair of the Board of the Veterans Employment Committee of San Diego; Research by Karen Boyd, Economist at the Workforce Partnership

Data in the article is from 2019 which is the most recent available data.

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My name is Charlene Autolino and I’m the chair of the board of the Veterans Employment Committee of San Diego (VEC). The VEC is an all-volunteer organization comprised of:

  • Veterans
  • Active-duty military personnel
  • California Employment Development Department (EDD) representatives
  • Veteran organizations
  • Employers
  • Government agencies
  • Community members

We are dedicated to serving disadvantaged veterans and transitioning military members of all branches of service by helping remove barriers that may prevent them from obtaining life-sustaining employment.

As we celebrate and acknowledge Veterans Day, there is an important question that must be asked: Do you hire veterans?

Michael’s Story

Michael is a United States Marine Corps veteran who served six years as an intelligence analyst. In 2018, Michael graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in political science from San Diego State University. Even with his professional military and educational success, Michael began to experience housing insecurity after nearly a year of unemployment.

In 2019, Michael reached out to the Easterseals’ Bob Hope Veteran Support Program and Warriors to Work’s Veterans to Work Program, both members of the VEC. Together, they encouraged Michael to apply to positions and programs that would lead him back on the road to stability and self-sufficiency.  

In December 2019, Michael received a tentative offer. But first he had seven days to reply with an explanation and supporting documents regarding a justice-involved incident that surfaced after a routine federal employment background check. If he failed to do so, his offer would be rescinded.

Easterseals consulted with the VEC on Michael’s behalf for guidance and was referred to the Veteran’s Treatment Court Team. As a result of the referral and quick, collaborative efforts of veteran advocates and their respective organizations, Michael was able to supply the necessary information and accepted a position as veteran service representative working with the Veteran Benefits Administration. He began working in early February 2020 and is still happily working with the VA—and will soon be married with a baby on the way!

This is just one example of how meaningful employment can help to change the lives of our veterans.  

Veteran Population in San Diego

The military accounts for a large portion of San Diego’s population and economy. In fact, there are just over 200,000 veterans in San Diego County—that’s 6% of our population. 

San Diego’s veteran population is a diverse group. The American Community Survey data shows:

Self-identified race
Age group
Under 25
Over 64
Percentage of male veterans in age group
Age group
Under 25
Over 64
Percentage of female veterans in age group

Veteran Underemployment in San Diego

According to LinkedIn’s Veteran Opportunity Report, veterans are much more likely to be underemployed when compared to their non-veteran peers. The gap between veteran and civilian underemployment has grown drastically over the last decade and left unaddressed will continue to widen.

San Diego needs to step up and honor those who answered the call to serve. We can help change the trajectory and change the lives of many of those who served.  

What Veterans Bring to the Workforce

In San Diego, veterans are more educated on average than the general population. 

  • 80% of San Diego veterans have at least some college education, compared to 52% of non-veterans
  • 13% of veterans have an associate’s degree, compared to 6% of non-veterans
  • 22% of veterans have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 18% of non-veterans
  • 16% of veterans have an advanced degree, compared to 10% of non-veterans

Not only do many veterans have academic accolades but their work-related experience can be an incredible asset to your company.

No matter what type of business you are, there are valuable skills for every team member to possess. Veterans bring many of these essential skills to the table, including critical thinking, communication, teamwork and dependability.

In addition to these essential skills, they also bring real world experience. Veterans are familiar with hard work, problem solving and handling high-pressure situations.

According to LinkedIn’s Veteran Opportunity Report, veterans remain with their initial company 8.3% longer than non-veterans. Veterans are reported to be 39% more likely to be promoted earlier than non-veterans and those with bachelor’s degrees have 2.9x more work experience.

More Incentives for Hiring Veterans

The business case for hiring veterans is clear: They represent an educated, experienced talent pool who can bring diverse skillsets to your team. As an added bonus, there are some financial incentives for hiring veterans.

We work directly with the Department of Labor to educate and provide training to federal employers to the benefits of hiring veterans. The San Diego Workforce Partnership is also a partner of the VEC and they provide specific information on tax benefits and paid training programs that an employer may qualify for when hiring our veterans. For more information, contact the Workforce Partnership at to discuss how you can get help.

Additionally, the VEC has established a grant program for the encouragement of organizations and agencies that provide a hand-up to veterans and we offer several $1,000 grants each year to qualified applicants.


What’s holding you back from hiring more veterans?

One of the most common reasons we hear for the discrepancy in veteran hiring is that it’s difficult to translate veteran experience into civilian terms. Employers don’t know what many of the acronyms and examples mean or how they might apply them to their own business. Additionally, employers aren’t sure where to find veteran talent pools.

To help solve some of these issues, we work with veterans through their job search process to translate their work experience into civilian terms. As part of our mission to promote economic self-sufficiency and meaningful employment for veterans, we target their individual needs and can help them understand the challenges of transitioning into the civilian workforce.

Finding and Hiring Veterans

We’re here to help.

For finding veteran talent, we hold many job fairs. Most recently our largest job fair was held at the San Diego Sports Arena with up to 130 employers and up to 1,000 veteran job seekers in attendance. The job fair is always held in November in honor of Veterans Day.

Our annual job and resource fair has been recognized by the California Legislative Assembly and the United States House of Representatives for its outstanding service to disadvantaged veterans and transitioning military members of all branches.

You can learn more about our job fair by visiting our website.

Outside of our job fairs, if you’re looking for candidates for your open positions, you can contact the VEC directly and we can connect you directly with multiple resources. If you have a completed job description, we can help distribute it to all of our veteran partners and share with EDD, the Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program and the Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives. Our contact page is here.

Why Hire Veterans?

While there are many great reasons to hire veterans, at the end of the day, you don’t hire them out of a sense of obligation or for financial gain. You hire veterans because they’re a great asset to any team and are prepared to be the next key contributor to your company.

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