FOR VETERANS, underemployment is the new unemployment.
With the U.S. Labor Department announcing earlier this month that veteran unemployment has hit a historic low, veterans groups, advocates and veterans themselves are sounding a new alarm: underemployment.
The department cites that of the more than 3 million post-9/11 veterans employed in the civilian workforce today, less than 40 percent are in management, professional and related occupations.
My industry, technology, is part of the problem. For too long, technology executives have looked past veteran talent because they were seeking “industry experience.” In truth, veterans’ skillsets are highly transferrable.
We need to work hard and do more to get veterans into more opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, because they are equipped to do those jobs and do them well. This is a result of being responsible for understanding, maintaining and operating multimillion and billion-dollar military technologies and equipment.
Retraining and deployment of veterans to fill these roles is not as hard as many suggest. In fact, there are many resources available to find, train and place veterans effectively and quickly. Veterans have proven to thrive in corporate environments where they are hired as full-time employees, trained in teams to succeed in the highly demanding corporate world and then deployed to clients in mutually supporting squads. It allows them to adjust to civilian life with a familiar support system.
If you know anything about veterans — whether you are one, are related to one or are passionate about veterans issues like me — you already know that veterans are highly skilled, talented and dedicated people who have a range of rare — and in demand — attributes.
And they know it. According to a report by Hiring Our Heroes, a nonprofit that helps place veterans in jobs, 44 percent of veterans left their first job out of the military within a year due to dissatisfaction.
It’s time that corporate America made room for our veterans. And based on our labor market, that room already exists. The technology sector in particular is at a loss to fill high-tech positions that require workers who are highly skilled.
An April analysis by Fortune found that nearly 66 percent of all H-1B visa applications processed in the first quarter of this year were for computer and math workers. But, due to potential changes to the H-1B program from the Trump administration, CNNMoney reports, the number of H-1B applications has declined for the first time in five years.
What does this mean? It means that the U.S technology sector has been relying on foreign labor for years and, finally, there appears to be room for veterans.
Veterans, who have made sacrifices for this country, deserve more than just a job — they deserve a satisfying, challenging and meaningful career. And it’s not a matter of pity, it’s a matter of business sensibility. These men and women — both able and disabled — are dedicated problem-solvers with unmatched technological experience and a history of innovation.
Veterans are uniquely equipped to contribute to the business sector in ways civilians cannot. Not only have veterans been responsible for understanding, maintaining and operating some of the most complex systems and technologies in existence today — such as naval navigation technologies, sophisticated communications systems and cyber-security programs — they are entrusted with interpreting and responding to the most sensitive military intelligence.
For corporations, this translates into reliable employees who are able to work under pressure, prioritize the needs of the team, communicate directly, and review and evaluate their work to achieve continuous improvement.
Add to that the military’s trademark ability to work as a cohesive team that learns and adapts to rapidly changing circumstances, a significant challenge facing many companies today. That’s a valuable business proposition.
In our current business and political climate, veterans are an important — and potentially game-changing — resource. Putting their mix of skills, discipline, teamwork and technical know-how to work is not only good for them, it’s good for business and our nation.
Karen Ross is the CEO of Sharp Decisions, one of the country’s largest independent woman-owned technology solutions businesses. The company is headquartered in New York City.
This op-ed was published in the Virginian-Pilot on Sunday, November 19, 2017