Four Barriers Vets Can Face Moving Into Civilian Employment

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Millions of Americans have experience with a branch of the armed forces, whether directly or through a co-worker, friend or family member. Yet many don't realize that some great benefits and resources are available to help military veterans find employment, although many vets remain jobless in today's struggling economy.

The military offers a number of high-quality talent pools with excellent potential for public and private organizations, including military spouses, military reservists, veterans and active military personnel transitioning to the civilian sector.

But it's not always easy for this valuable group of employees to find civilian work.

Past barriers have ranged from the lack of an effective process for connecting veterans to employment that suited their skills, to getting veterans the right information about open positions in the public sector. Read on for a look at some potential roadblocks that vets and others connected with the military might encounter during their job search and hiring process -- and some possible solutions.

Barrier No. 1: Transition

Both military spouses and the men and women exiting the military share a high motivation to build a career outside the military, transferring their skills to the corporate world. About 20,000 people leave the military on average every month, while more than 300,000 military spouses relocate each year, with many seeking employment options in their new locations. An additional 206,000 Army Reserve soldiers stand ready to serve the nation when called. So how do they make this transition?

Solution: Targeted military initiatives

Various military support centers are focused on targeted initiatives for job placement, including these examples:

  • U.S. Army Reserve Employer Partnership Initiative: Established to enhance job opportunities for Army Reserve soldiers and veterans, this partnership also supports employers that hire reservists.

  • Military Transition Assistance Programs: Base-specific programs that connect military personnel and their spouses with employer resources to assist in their transition to the civilian sector.

  • Military Officers Association of America: Offers support for transitioning members and spouses spanning all branches of the armed services.

  • Marine for Life: A website for transitioning Marines who wish to relocate to a specific geographical region and use employer resources in their job search.

  • Army Spousal Employment Partnership: A partnership aimed at increasing employment opportunities for Army spouses during their spouse's active duty and transition to civilian life.

Barrier No. 2: Economic downturn

While unemployment fell to 9.7 percent in February, many veterans remain unemployed. As many as 11 percent of veterans from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were unemployed in 2009, the Labor Department reports. Making matters more difficult, a lack of jobs after transition has forced many service members to re-enlist.

Solution: Veteran Employment Initiative

As part of President Barack Obama's Veteran Employment Initiative, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is creating a strategic blueprint to increase and support the hiring of veterans throughout the public sector and federal work force. The OPM expects to aggressively dismantle barriers for veterans seeking federal employment and provide ongoing career support to veterans in the federal work force as they adjust to civilian work life.

Barrier No. 3: No jobs in the private sector

In today's labor market, the private sector is struggling with high unemployment, as more and more companies are shedding jobs instead of hiring.

Solution: Employment in the public sector

According to the Partnership for Public Service, opportunity abounds in the public sector, which is looking to hire veterans to fill many jobs – totaling almost 300,000 new employees in the near future to offset an impending talent shortage when baby boomers retire. The government hopes to engage veterans to take over most of these positions, since former service members have the ideal skill sets to replace federal workers. Just a few categories of the expected job openings include:

  1. Medical/Public Health:Doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, pharmacists and other wellness professionals.

  2. Security/Protection:Police officers, transportation officers, border patrol agents and customs officers.

  3. Compliance/Enforcement:Attorneys, paralegals and administrative and program management professionals.

  4. Financial:Accountants, tax examiners, auditors, budget and financial analysts.

  5. Various agencies:Engineers, information technology and biological science experts, as well as human resource professionals across various federal agencies.

Barrier No. 4: Fit for civilian employment

Some employers, as well as some otherwise ideal candidates, still perceive military experience as too specialized to translate effectively the civilian workplace. This could not be further from the truth, as military experience makes for a great fit with civilian employment in a variety of ways.

Solution: Military geography, ethic and credentialing

Military installations are spread across the United States, with 77 percent of personnel located in 13 states, for a great geographical fit with many American businesses. Exiting personnel are offered one relocation, paid by the military, so candidates can be recruited from anywhere. Plus, military veterans and their spouses offer a military ethic that includes sought-after employee qualities such as discipline, leadership, education and adaptability.

Credentialing is another smart way to increase military chances of landing a civilian job. It's estimated that about 38 percent of military personnel who separate from the services each year will need a credential -- whether a license or certificate, issued by a third party to qualify their military training before working in civilian jobs.

Consult an expert

No matter what potential roadblocks that veterans or existing military personnel might encounter during their job search and hiring process, placement agencies and dedicated resources are available to help, many at no cost to the employee.

And the time is ripe for this significant candidate pool: Studies estimate that during Obama's term, new hiring for all types of federal government positions will reach nearly 600,000 employees -- almost one-third of the current work force.

If you or someone you know has military experience, it might be time to see what Uncle Sam has to offer.

Next:Veterans: Tired of Taking Orders? Start a Business


Kelly Government Solutions provides experienced staff to the federal government and its key suppliers, including prime and small business contractors. Through services such as government contract staffing, work force management, project management and contract compliance services, KGS supplies talent to both the public and private sectors. For more information, please visit

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