Army veteran Matthew Heath was trained to be a mechanic but was assigned to other duties during his two deployments to Afghanistan.
In 2010-11 he was sent to Garde, where he provided security for an agribusiness development team in a combat zone. When he was sent to Shindand in 2013-2014, he was attached to a radar team.
“I learned a lot,” Heath said. “Both times I had to adapt as needed and be flexible.”
Adaptability and flexibility are among the skills employers look for in candidates for a wide range of jobs. Veterans can provide a solution for many businesses, experts say.
The Boldt Co. hired Heath in May to be head of security. He had safety experience with other companies, but there were “areas of construction that I had no knowledge of”.
The recruiting team didn’t care, because Boldt learned that veterans have transferable skills that benefit the construction industry.
“At the end of the day, what makes us marketable is being punctual, being flexible, showing our ability to learn new things, attention to detail and professionalism,” Heath said. “I use the skills I learned from the military every day on the job sites.”
Finding a job after their military service concerns nearly 200,000 veterans each year. According to the Pew Research Center, only 1 in 4 American veterans have an intended job when they leave the armed forces.
“Employers are starting to see veterans bring unique skills that add value,” said Cheryl Hanson, district manager at Insperity, a national human resources provider.
Veterans are highly skilled and very intuitive, Hanson said. They have interpersonal skills, work well in a team environment, can make quick decisions and think outside the box, she said.
“They can be faced with a goal or a deadline and stick to it,” Hanson said. “They make great leaders and can be mentors for young workers.”
Employers realize they can teach the specific job skills needed, but cannot teach those skills, she said.
As the labor shortage continues, the national unemployment rate stands at 3.7%, but the US Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for veterans is even lower at 2.7 %. The difference illustrates that many employers recognize the competitive advantage that veterans bring to their companies, Hanson said.
This was not always the case. Hanson said the unemployment rate for veterans has dropped 50% since 2017, in part due to a better understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD was associated with veterans — though not all veterans served on the front lines — and hiring managers worried about how it might affect their jobs.
“Our knowledge of what PTSD is has increased,” Hanson said. “It can be common in anyone who has experienced trauma.” Today, workplaces increasingly have mental health support services for employees, she said.
“Veterans really bring value to any industry, but they are particularly sought after by the IT and finance sectors,” she said.
“At the heart of it is ‘I want to serve’. I want to serve others.’ These are people who are willing to go the extra mile,” Hanson said.
Employers who hire veterans can get all of that, plus a Work Opportunity Tax Credit between $2,400 and $9,600 per employee and special employer incentive reimbursements for the cost of training veterans. veterans for a job, she said.
Hanson advises military-friendly employers to raise awareness internally and externally, partner with nonprofits that support veterans, and attend college job fairs offering military programs.
Veterans “get our satisfaction from doing their best,” Heath said. “We want veterans to apply for positions at Boldt because we know they strive for excellence in everything they do.”