Last month, the U.S. economy added another 263,000 new jobs, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.6%, the lowest in a generation. The last time unemployment was this low was in December 1969, when it hit 3.5%.
While obviously good for the nation, the jobs news reflects the challenges the nation’s employers currently face: A widening skills gap. According to LinkedIn, nearly 60% of employers struggle to fill job vacancies within 12 weeks. What’s more, the talent gap is expected to continue to grow, to 85.2 million by 2030.
Narrowing the workforce gap will take strong collaboration between corporate America and our education system. But, in the short term, increasing workforce capacity requires creative approaches and investment. Staffing companies and consulting firms are looking at talent pools through a different lens—bringing back retirees, training them to upskill or reskill, developing junior talent, or hiring returning military vets to increase the workforce in the short term.
Many Veterans are Underemployed
U.S. military veterans represent a deep, yet underutilized, pool for filling growing skills and talent gaps in U.S. corporations.
The unemployment rate for military veterans also has reached record lows—at 2.3% in April, it is the lowest monthly rate since 2000, but the data does not assess the potential numbers of underemployed U.S. military veterans – for example, the highly trained radio operator who is working in a low-skilled position.
Reports indicate that 15.6% of veterans are more likely to be underemployed than civilians. The 2016 Hiring Our Heroes study found that 44% of veterans leave their first post-military job within the first year. Underemployed military veterans are underutilized in their current roles. This can mean having a higher education level than is required for their current position, having more experience than required, or seeking full-time work, but only working part-time.
To win the war for talent, corporate hiring managers must learn to rely less on traditional indicators – such as IQ, experience, past performance, competencies and skills – and more on detecting the potential people have for learning rapidly, solving problems and being highly adaptable to fast-moving global market and economic conditions.
Military veterans already possess many of the characteristics that business enterprises need: leadership, work ethic, loyalty and collaboration. Often power users of advanced technology, they have trained rigorously in cyber/data security best practices. Roles for which military veterans are well suited include Technical Analyst, Business Analyst, Project Coordinator, Data Specialist, Quality Assurance Specialist, Service Desk and Help Desk, among others.
Our Military Veterans: Part of the Solution
As Staffing Industry Analysts recently reported, the primary bottleneck on IT staffing growth lies squarely on the supply shortage of talent with the requisite experience and skill sets, areas where U.S. military veterans can help businesses to win the war on talent. Businesses evaluating talent through a different lens and considering training as part of the solution may want to include our military veterans, who comprise a highly skilled adaptive talent segment that while on the surface may not have the requisite skills, but are particularly adept at learning in a fast-paced environment and working under pressure.
Three competency areas with greater demand for talent than is available include:
- Computer Science
While the U.S. continues to award more computer science degrees to meet growing demand, many new graduates lack the experience and expertise required of areas where the skills gap is currently most severe. According to the Staffing Industry Analysts, the U.S. unemployment rate for Computer and Mathematical occupations tightened another 30 basis points in 2018 to just 2.1%. The unemployment rate for software developers, the largest IT occupational category, was squeezed to 1.6% and computer network architects reached a microscopic 0.1%.
Talent is in short supply, says Staffing Industry Analysts. Cyber/data security tied for the highest recruiting difficulty in a survey among IT skillsets for the third consecutive year, reflecting a shortage of new graduates entering the workforce with sought-after cybersecurity skills. The benefits of immigration offer little reprieve for these jobs as many require employee security clearances unavailable to non-U.S. citizens.
- Project Management
By 2027, employers will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles, says the Project Management Institute (PMI). The shortage of qualified talent poses a notable risk for organizations that rely on that talent to implement strategic initiatives, drive and deliver innovation. Demand is high for practitioners with the necessary mix of competencies—a combination of tech and leadership skills plus strategic and business management. At Genesis10, we’re seeing a shift as the role evolves from traditional project manager to Scrum Master, or in some cases, to more of a hybrid role as more companies evolve in their adoption of Agile as well as progress towards continuous integration/contiguous delivery for application development initiatives.