While at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Veterans Hiring Fair at Fort Campbell, I was surprised by the presence of the First Lady Michelle Obama who leads the White House initiative on hiring veterans.
She used the event as a platform to launch the Department of Veterans Affairs new online job tool: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/skills-translator.
I was skeptical that this skills translator would be any better than its predecessors, but I decided to test it out. When I typed in my military job descriptors into the tool: “Marine, Infantry, Officer,” I got the following response: "No direct civilian jobs that match this code." Words cannot begin to describe how completely the skills translators fails both the veteran and the company. It continues the mantra that companies and veterans must use only their experience to find their next role.
Also at the conference was a 25-year-old Medal of Honor recipient, Marine Corps Sergeant Dakota Meyer, who echoed my sentiments when he said, “Hire for aptitude and ability, not experience. How does one translate Marine Corps Sniper?” Some organizations are starting to see the light – that you can’t literally translate what a veteran did while in the military into where they will fit in the private sector.
Our system is broken as evidenced by the 18 percent unemployment for veterans under the age of 30. We are continually trying to improve a broken idea.
What we need are people who are willing to act as veteran interpreters inside of companies to help each individual company make the transition. A senior level veteran at Xerox took all their roles and created a simple, but workable spreadsheet to help dial in veterans on where they might fit in. It isn’t an all-encompassing Excel spreadsheet, but it is much better than trying to determine a veteran’s place in the corporate workforce based solely on military titles.