Hire Heroes Act will help change perceptions of veterans entering tough job market

Veterans are returning home to an abysmal economy and a tough job market.

“After World War II, employers used to snap up veterans because of their tremendous skills sets gained in the service — whether that be technical, leadership or other job specific aptitudes,” says Monica Matthieu, PhD, research assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert on veteran mental health.

“But now, veterans are facing higher unemployment rates than civilians as employers may be concerned about veterans’ struggle with the mental and physical health aftereffects of military service,” she says.

Matthieu says that these employment concerns have many veterans taking time to retool their skills sets and critically examine the type of work they want to do in their post-military life.

“For some veterans, this means going back to school to be trained in a new area, finding the civilian equivalent to what they did in the military, and for others, it means volunteering to build networking opportunities and to engage in meaningful activities in their home communities,” she says.

Research conducted by the Brown School’s Center for Social Development (csd.wustl.edu/AboutUs/News/Pages/title.aspx) shows that when given the opportunity to serve again, that veterans thrive in volunteering in their communities, build networking opportunities for their future, further their education and transfer their military skills to civilian employment.

“Passage of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act is all about changing perceptions and is actively changing the job outlook for veterans,” Matthieu says.

“The new law builds upon the strengths of our veterans as they re-enter the civilian workforce by providing increased education and training opportunities as well as tax credits for the private sector, enhanced access to federal employment, and other programs to aid the transition from the military to the civilian sector.”

Matthieu says that there are a host of new tools that are making the career transition easier for veterans, including the Veterans Job Bank, Veteran Gold Card, My Next Move for Veterans, Hiring our Heroes, Milicruit and Military Spouse Employment Partnership.

Veterans Job Bank: This easy-to-use tool hosted by the National Resource Directory helps veterans find job postings from companies looking to hire them based on the veterans’ own search criteria. It already searches over more than 500,000 job postings and is growing with postings specifically tagged for veterans by the employers wanting to hire them. Access the job bank here: nationalresourcedirectory.gov/jobSearch/index.

Veteran Gold Card: Post-9/11 veterans can download this card from the Department of Labor, which entitles them to enhanced services, including six months of personalized case management, assessments and counseling, at the roughly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers located across the country. Download the card here: dol.gov/vets/goldcard/revisedgoldcard5.pdf.

My Next Move for Veterans: This new online resource from the Department of Labor allows veterans to enter their military occupation code and discover civilian occupations for which they are well-qualified. The site also will include information about salaries, apprenticeships and other related education and training programs: mynextmove.org/vets.

Hiring Our Heroes: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring 100 hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses in local communities across the country between March 2011-March 2012. Additional partnerships and programs focus on wounded warriors, post-9/11 student veterans, women veterans and military spouses: uschamber.com/veterans.

Milicruit: This virtual recruitment center allows service members, veterans and military spouses the opportunity to meet and interact with military-friendly employers in real time and from anywhere they are located with an Internet connection: veteranscareerfair.com.

Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Board: This online resource connects military spouses to employers via a web portal. It lists job postings and more: msepjobs.com (MSEP).

In addition, hiring pledges for veterans are continuing to pour in from the private sector at an unprecedented rate. See the commitments at whitehouse.gov/joiningforces/commitments.

“Given the recent employment figures for veterans, these tools, directly resulting from the efforts of Joining Forces (whitehouse.gov/joiningforces) and the White House, have great potential to improve employment and life opportunities for veterans, their families, and our communities,” Matthieu says.