America has a labor problem, one that extends from your favorite Main Street pizza joint all the way to Amazon and Google. In every town in every state in the Union, the call is the same – businesses are desperate for workers.
As of the end of August, 2021, there were 10 million unfilled jobs in the United States. About half of businesses nationwide reported needing workers, and tech companies ranked third on the number of openings waiting to be filled.
At the same time, there’s a group of prospective employees flowing into the labor force that many tech companies are scrambling to attract. That group is military veterans, of which there were 18.5 million men and women in 2020, or 7 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population, age 18 and over in the U.S. The unemployment rate for this group rose to 6.5 percent overall and 7.3 percent for the subset Gulf War Era II vets who served any time since 9/11.
Among all vets, the unemployed represent nearly 600,000 individuals, nearly 6 in 10 of whom are ages 18 to 54. Even allowing for those veterans with a service-related disability, this presents a huge potential workforce for companies, especially when one considers the adaptive technologies and work-from home arrangements that can accommodate many of these individuals.
Tech companies should be particularly attuned to the potential of this labor pool, not just for the numbers out there, but for how well-matched military veterans are to the tech industry itself. Many military jobs involve high-tech equipment, from surveillance and communications down to today’s Humvees, ships and aircraft, drones and bomb-disarming robots, which are the very definition of cutting-edge.
In addition, many vets have leadership skills and experience that fits neatly into the general civilian description of project manager. And all have been drilled on execution of a mission, teamwork, attention to detail and a demonstrable ability to learn on the fly.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds to reintroduce veterans back into civilian society, which is why companies of all kinds – include tech – have to take steps to demonstrate the needs of the veteran, especially those who have only recently been discharged. They don’t call it assimilation for nothing, as the following common hurdles to employment show:
Lost in Translation: Many military jobs are nearly identical in responsibility to civilian jobs, but are called by very different names. This not only is confusing for the veteran to know what to apply for, but hiring managers unfamiliar with military lingo often overlook an imminently qualified veteran.
Certification Hurdles: Military members who were recently operating multimillion-dollar equipment in hot zones are often frustrated by having to earn licenses and certifications, such as over-the-road trucks or special security clearances.
Misunderstanding Disabilities: An individual cannot be denied employment due to a disability, but hiring managers may subconsciously make assumptions based on attention to PTSD and other ailments reported in the media.
Fortunately, there are forward-thinking employers out there who welcome veterans with open arms and work to connect them to the jobs that fit their skillsets. Among them are Amazon, Google, GoDaddy and Windstream Communications, the parent company of Kinetic. A Gold-Level Military Friendly employer, Windstream works with nearly a dozen organizations to not only help put veterans to work, but ensure the environment to which they report is supportive of their military background, including seeing to any adaptive needs they may have.
“We’re committed to hiring qualified veterans and spouses at Windstream,” said Tony Thomas, president and CEO. “The future of our company relies on the quality of our people and there are no employees more distinguished, or more representative of our company culture, than the brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way to protect and defend others. We are proud to call them part of the Windstream family.”