Next Wednesday, we will launch our fourth Online TechTable as part of our Reinvent America series with Reinventors Network. LT Josh Fryday, JAG Corps, USN, Ret. (COO of NextGen Climate Action) will anchor the discussion, which asks the question “How do we improve the reentry experience of veterans into the American economy and society?” LT Fyday will be joined by other amazing participants including T4A.org Board Members LT Charley Moore, USN, Ret. (Founder & CEO of Rocket Lawyer) and Craig Newmark (Nerd-in-Residence at the Department of Veterans Affairs and founder of craigslist and craigconnects), CPT Michael Breen, USA, Ret. (Executive Director of the Truman National Security Project) and Dr. Charles Morgan (Professor of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine).
Facilitating successful transitions for veterans back into civilian society is a subject that our group is passionate about, and one that comes up frequently in our Offline TechTable discussions. An important facet of this, and one in which we believe that the tech sector can play a role, is reducing the unemployment rate of veterans. According to a March 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the unemployment rate among veterans was 6.6% in 2013. While that is not significantly different than the rate for non-veterans (7.2%), there are a few groups for which the rates are astonishingly high. For Gulf War era II veterans (defined as those who served on active duty anywhere in the world from Sept 2001 to now) the rate was at 9.0%. Most shocking was the unemployment rate for the Gulf War era II veterans between ages the ages of 18 and 24: a horrific 21.4%!1 This group comprises our veterans most recently in service and likely still in their transition phase.
What’s particularly interesting is that this employment disparity exists despite our vocalized commitment to improving the situation. As a recent Washington Post article titled “Wanted: Heroes” points out, many groups have made promises to hire veterans. Wal-Mart and McDonalds both pledged to hire 100,000 veterans while Starbucks committed to 10,000. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has gathered another 409,000 pledges from other businesses. Adding all of the pledges together, we get close to 1 million jobs for an estimated 210,000 post-Sept. 11 era veterans.2
So why is the unemployment rate so high? Various speculations have been made. Mental and physical health has been suggested as one obstacle. The same Washington Post article suggests that many veterans have “come home from war with bad backs, bad knees, high blood pressure, high levels of anxiety, bad memories and diminished cognition, which can make them that much more unattractive to employers.”3 In addition, according to a study published by the Department of Veterans Affairs, of all reported suicides between 2009-2012, 22.2% were veterans.4 In our TechTable with Thomas Perez, Secretary of the Department of Labor, he cited skill translation and a lack of credentialing as another obstacle to getting hired. He pointed out that someone who served as a paramedic in the military isn’t automatically qualified to serve as a paramedic outside of the military because of licensing issues. In addition, many veterans find it difficult to translate their military skills to skills needed for open positions. Despite the existence of MOC (Military Occupation Code) translators and resume engines, there still seems to be a disconnect. And, as Senator Tim Kaine pointed out in our Washington D.C. TechTable, the private sector often struggles to fully understand the type of skills learned in the military. For example, many veterans are extremely skilled at leadership and teamwork, two traits considered immensely valuable in civilian workplaces, yet there does not seem to be an easy way to translate these skills into a language that both the veteran and the prospective employer understand.
Finally, as we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, open computer science jobs are increasing quickly. Research by Code.org shows that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer jobs.5 This is a great opportunity for veterans, many of whom already have significant knowledge of computers and other technical skills. Unfortunately, while the GI bill does cover some IT bootcamps, it doesn’t cover short-length intensive coding bootcamps such as General Assembly or DevBootcamp.
These are some of the issues we hope to discuss in our Online TechTable on Wednesday. There are quite a few challenges when it comes to helping veterans transition back into society but we believe that with some thoughtful discussion and great public-private partnerships we can help make a difference in this area. The conversation will start at 11 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. We hope you’ll join us in this discussion—sign up here!
1 United States, Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014, March 20). Employment situation of veterans. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.htm
2 Jaffe, G. (2014, April 2). Wanted: Heroes. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/04/02/wanted-heroes/
4 Kemp, J., RN PhD, & Bossarte, R., PhD. (2013, February 1). Suicide Data Report, 2012 (United States, Department of Veteran Affairs, Mental Health Services). Retrieved from http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/suicide-data-report-2012-final.pdf
5 Code.org. (n.d.). Promote computer science. Retrieved June 27, 2014, from http://www.code.org/promote