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Veterans account for only 5.6% of the U.S. workforce, but outweigh civilians in management, business, and financial operations occupations, according to Department of Labor data.
With roughly 200,000 service members transitioning back to civilian life annually, opportunities exist for communities – particularly those with a strong military presence – to capitalize on that potential influx to the workforce.
That’s exactly what Rick Dwyer, Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance (HRMFFA), brought up in our conversation for an article that publishes in Business Facilities’ November/December issue. He said that in terms of economic development, large military populations are a bonus as a potential workforce pool.
“If the region has good, high paying jobs and they’re [service members] already here and settled, that’s incentive for them to stick around,” Dwyer said. “So that is, I think, an attractive aspect for any employer, whether defense related or other industries, to say they have such a readily available pool of veterans every year.”
But that relationship goes both ways. As much as the veterans are a boon to employers, the employers are key for veterans who are transitioning out of the service.
A 2019 Pew Research Center study found that a majority of veterans viewed their military service as “useful in giving them the skills and training they needed for a job outside the military,” with 29% each saying it was very useful and fairly useful.
“While most post-9/11 veterans say their military service was an advantage when it came to getting their post-military job, many say that job was not a perfect fit,” the report stated. “About four-in-ten (42%) say they felt overqualified for their first job after leaving the military based on their skills, experience and training; 46% say their qualifications were about right, and 12% felt underqualified.”
To ensure that veterans and employers can create a mutually beneficial relationship, a mediator, such as a military liaison can be helpful. Randy Norwood, AVP of Military Affairs and Strategic Partnership, is that person for Greater Omaha – a veteran himself whose background has helped cement partnerships and build rapport with Offutt Air Force Base.
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I also spoke with Norwood, who acknowledged that the city’s recognition as a Great American Defense Community is a benefit to the base, its service members, and the community as a whole.
“When we start talking economic development, when you get designated as a Great American Defense Community, it shows it’s a good place to be,” Norwood said. “It’s great for the families. It’s great for the spouses, which then ties to being able to retain that service member and their family when they go to transition. So what that does is then that adds to the workforce, which then is a direct impact on economic development.”
Barry Albrecht, CEO of Strategic Location Services, comes from a military family and offers similar sentiments in the upcoming article. In the same way workforce development can focus on the individual among the bigger picture of employment, Albrecht’s experience in a military intelligence aviation unit gave him a similar perspective.
“Being a part of that unit, I finally started to genuinely understand so many words that I’ve heard and said many times before; words like loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage,” Albrecht said. “I also realized why these core values were the foundation of operational success within the military as well as in economic development.
“As soldiers, as teams, as units, so many of our successful efforts made direct positive impacts on other fellow soldiers in other roles that we never met. It has been my experience that this framework, this perspective that we are all working together to move closer to our ultimate objective, holds true in both the private sector and especially community economic development.”