With Economy in Upswing, Employers Now Fighting to Hire Skilled Veterans

A soldier gets job application advice at a Hire Our Heroes veteran employment event.

The improving job market for veterans and transitioning service members has set off a competition among employers for those with skills that easily translate into the private sector, according to a military-to-civilian recruiting firm.

"Companies are fighting a war for talent" as both the civilian and non-civilian unemployment rates have dipped below four percent, said Matt Disher, a senior vice president with RecruitMilitary, a firm that seeks to connect employers with "high-talent" veterans.

Disher said organizations are now competing against each other to land talented vets.

RecruitMilitary, a subsidiary of Bradley-Morris, Inc., bills itself as "the leading military recruiting firm specializing in transitioning military and veteran talent."

The company will participate this week in a jobs fair sponsored by Farmers Insurance at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Disher said that some 250 to 300 veterans, military spouses, transitioning military personnel, and National Guard and Reserve members were expected to attend to meet with representatives of about 52 firms who will be exhibiting.

The event will take place amid a changing climate in the jobs market as employers seek to take advantage of the booming economy. And companies are gradually becoming more aware of the talent pool that exists among veterans and transitioning service members that could help their firms grow, Disher said.

"A lot of the large companies, a lot of the ones that have needed this talent all along, they now realize the asset of hiring from the military," said Disher, a former Marine sergeant and combat engineer.

The purpose of the job fairs, which RecruitMilitary participates in at the rate of about 100 a year, is two-fold, he said.

The first objective, Disher said, is to put the employer and the veteran on the same wavelength. Disher cited the example of military aircraft mechanics.

"The airlines are looking for skilled mechanics to work on aircraft," he said. "What better place to go than the military -- where people operate in a zero-fail environment -- to grab somebody used to working on jet aircraft?"

The second objective is to get the veterans and transitioning service members into networking, he said.

"The premise of the career exposition [or jobs fair] is to shake hands with people who might be able to get you to the next level of your career," Disher said.

With the jobs market improving, the focus on veterans employment should also turn to veterans "underemployment," Disher said.

"We're talking about the person who is statistically employed, but they're working a job that doesn't fully put their skill set to work" or offer career advancement opportunities, he said.

The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for August showed that the veterans unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, slightly better than the overall unemployment rate of 3.9 percent.

The unemployment rate for female veterans is 4.5 percent.

Perhaps one of the most encouraging statistics in the BLS report is the continuing downward trend in the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans, or what BLS calls "Gulf War-era II veterans.''

For years, the unemployment rate for this population was in the double digits.

The BLS report for August 2018 showed the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 3.9 percent, down from 4.2 percent in August 2017. From 2009 to 2012, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was above 10 percent, hitting a high of 12.1 percent in 2011, according to BLS.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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