By Heath Culbertson, Veteran Liaison for KBR
As our military continues to reduce its force, numerous veterans are seeking civilian employment. I was in this position just a few short months ago after I retired from the Air Force under the Temporary Early Retirement Act (TERA) with 18 years of service. With our country coming out of the longest stint of war in its history, I knew that this reduction was going to be massive and widespread. I put my TERA package in on Jan. 14, 2014 and was on terminal leave by May 16, 2014, with an effective retirement date of Aug. 1, 2014. It was an expedited process to say the least, and there was a lot of uncertainty. I ended up being unemployed for the first two months of my retirement and wondered if I made a big mistake. Eventually, I was hired on with KBR and discovered that my story was not unique – many veterans are unemployed after separating or retiring from the military.
It is common for post-9/11 veterans to have difficulty transitioning from military service to the civilian workforce because many of their skills are interpreted differently in civilian careers. As the veteran liaison for KBR, my job is to help veterans address these gaps and place them in careers that will allow them to be successful. There are plenty of career and advancement opportunities available in the construction industry for our veterans. When you combine the attributes our veterans have from the military – such as leadership, work ethic, punctuality, discipline and integrity – with NCCER’s craft curriculum and on-the-job training, our veterans have the potential to be the next leaders of the construction industry.
As an industry, we must do a better job of attracting, recruiting and retaining our nation’s veterans. To accomplish this, here are three tips to help connect employers with veteran communities:
- Hire veterans for military recruiter or liaison positions to work closely with the veteran community. Recruiters or liaisons with military experience understand how to effectively communicate with other veterans, and they can relate to service members going through the separation process. Veteran recruiters also have more credibility when it comes to building relationships with transitional programs on military bases.
- Connect with service members prior to their transition out of the military. Provide current service members with training opportunities to ensure they have the skills to succeed in the industry. Offer guidance to transitioning service members so they can obtain industry-recognized credentials that meet your company’s needs.
- Connect with organizations that offer free support to both veterans and employers. To reach veterans who have already made the transition to civilian life, there are many state and local workforce agencies, nonprofits and community organizations that are available to help place veterans in careers.
It is said that our World War II veterans built this great country after the war ended. I believe our post-9/11 veterans will make just as much of an impact. However, our industry must not fall short in attracting and training these individuals. We can honor those who gave their lives for our country this Memorial Day by remembering the sacrifices our returning military made as they re-enter civilian society and establish new careers. Let’s do our part in helping these brave individuals build the country they fought and died to protect.