OPINION: Veterans and trade employers are seeking certainty. Let’s make the connection

Published 12:56 am Saturday, October 30, 2021

Each Veterans Day—this year observed on Thursday, November 11—we are all reminded of our military Veterans and compelled to say thank you for their service. As one of the approximately 2 million Texans who have served in the United States Armed Forces and one who also did a tour in Afghanistan, here’s what I want you to know about the promise our Veterans represent for our workforce.

In 2012, I was honorably discharged as a disabled combat Veteran after two enlistments in the U.S. Army as a Specialist, Chaplain Assistant from Fort Hood, following a tour in Afghanistan. Like most Veterans transitioning to civilian life and especially finding meaningful work, I struggled initially. But I found that my training and preparation made all the difference. And that’s the story of so many.

Veterans possess a variety of soft skills including time management, team orientation and a strong work ethic, which are in high demand by employers. After a military career of 20 or 25 years, those transitioning also have a baseline income and benefits on which they can rely along with maturity and a high level of dependability. Yet making the transition isn’t always easy.

We live in a world of cultural understanding for many differences. But given the military’s unique culture and way of communicating-as well as the way their skills and job roles are titled—Veterans many attributes may not immediately be understood by recruiters who are perhaps more keyed into civilian job experience.

The irony is that in today’s job market especially, employers are looking for the same kind of certainty our highly desirable Veterans are seeking. Where there’s a disconnect, it is often a simple matter of re-training our service men and women how their ample skills translate.

I found my post-military calling as an electrical instructor at Skillpoint Alliance, a Central Texas nonprofit organization that offers just this kind of free, hands-on training and education programs in the skilled trades, which also include manufacturing, HVAC and plumbing. What I discovered is that as a Veteran, I had the mindset and preparation to excel in this work and to mentor others, but especially in helping them get ready to face perceptions in the interview process and on the worksite.

Something I learned is that Veterans need to learn to soften their communication style, and that their tactical experience simply needs to be explained. Also, as they are often transitioning after discharge or retirement from Military service, they have to re-orient themselves to the civilian workforce in a way that makes the best use of their maturity and skill sets. We do this type of outreach and retraining at Skillpoint, and it is so worth that little bit of extra effort to bring stellar candidates to our employer partners.

In my specialty alone, there is such a need for reliable and skilled workers. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of electricians is projected to grow 9 percent in the next decade, translating to about 84,700 openings for electricians are projected each year. We’ve got programs for plumbing, HVAC technicians and even manufacturing that are perfect for Veterans.

What’s worked great for us is taking a little extra time and effort to understand military skills and job role lingo, so we can make the most of the many abilities these men and women bring. Our conversations with employer partners tell us that a little learning goes a long way in this regard–reminding us that Veterans resumes may look a little different, but they are filled with rigorous training and discipline.

Our success is based on a holistic approach to uplifting the whole person and incorporating their pre-existing skills into their workplace readiness. As we mark another Veterans Day as many have returned home from Afghanistan and soon will be transitioning into civilian life, I would encourage all companies to welcome Veterans into your candidate pools, especially in the skilled trades.

Texas has a proud and strong Veteran community and we invite all employers in the state to salute their service and to make use of their phenomenal skills, fortitude and esprit de corps.

Matthew Singer is an Electrical Instructor at Skillpoint Alliance (www.skillpointalliance.org) and disabled combat Veteran, honorably discharged after two enlistments as a Specialist, Chaplain Assistant in the U.S. Army at Fort Hood in 2012.