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September 10, 2019

By Nate Hunt, BW Research Partnership

In a presentation titled “Supporting Veterans as they Transition to Civilian Employment” at the 2019 California Workforce Association Meeting of the Minds Conference in Monterey, researchers from BW Research Partnership and the San Diego Workforce Partnership discussed challenges and obstacles that veterans face as they enter the civilian workforce.

Photo of veteran by Hannah Skelly Unsplash

About one in 10 adult residents in San Diego County are veterans—the third-highest veteran population in the U.S.

Nearly a quarter of a million veterans live in San Diego County, accounting for 9.1% of the adult population.



San Diego veterans are better educated, but more likely to be unemployed. Click To Tweet

San Diego County’s veterans are, on average, better educated than the non-veteran population. About 80% of local veterans have more than a high school diploma, compared to only 67% of non-veteran adults in San Diego County. 

Yet, unemployment rates are higher among certain veteran populations than their non-veteran counterparts. Despite having higher educational attainment on average—as well as years of valuable skills development and training through their service—unemployment rates among young as well as recently separated veterans are higher than their non-veteran counterparts.

More than half of the veterans in the focus group felt their skills from the military did not translate to a civilian role.

A majority of veterans in the focus group felt that their military skills did not translate to a civilian role. Interestingly, nearly all veteran focus group participants had heard of the O*Net military skills translator but fewer than half had used it, and even fewer felt it was useful.

Employer perceptions of veterans’ abilities differ across industries.

On average, employer perceptions of veterans’ resumes, non-technical workplace skills and technical skills were higher among employers in energy, construction, utilities and public administration than among biotechnology, life sciences and information and communication technology employers. This finding suggests that career navigation strategies should include the expectations and general requirements of industries and occupations.

There is a need for increased career navigation, including drafting role-specific resumes and cover letters. All respondents in the veteran focus group felt that putting together a resume was easy or manageable. However, one out of six employers cited generic or erroneous resumes and cover letters as common mistakes made by veteran applicants. This disconnect suggests there is room for substantial progress in veteran career navigation training and workshops.

Recently separated veterans generally fall into three categories.

Recently separated veterans generally fall into three career navigation categories and each category requires different services:

  • Veterans who wish to continue to do the work they did in the military;
  • Veterans who want to do something different from what they did in the military and have an idea of what they would like to do as a civilian;
  • Veterans who want to do something different but do not know what they would like to do as a civilian.

Enhanced career navigation services can help San Diego County veterans transition to the civilian workforce.

The Workforce Partnership plans to help address some of the challenges uncovered by:

  • Assisting in networking recently separated veterans with other veterans and industry professionals
  • Enhanced career pathway education resources
  • Workshops to assist in specialized resume and cover letter
  • Developing or enhancing military-role or branch-specific career pathways
  • Advertising services to recently separated veterans

The presentation was given by BW Research Partnership President Josh Williams, Workforce Partnership Director of Research and Evaluation Sarah Burns, and Workforce Partnership Manager of Regional Initiatives Melanie Hitchcock.

To learn more about this research, contact

Photo of veteran by Hannah Skelly on Unsplash

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