MILITARY SERVICE VETERANS, AN UNTAPPED TECHNICAL POOL FOR RECRUITMENT
by GARLAND WILLIAMS, PH.D, USA COL (RET)
Garland Williams, a graduate of Auburn University and the Duke Graduate School, is a US Army retired engineer officer who commanded at all levels from platoon through brigade, with operational deployments to Kuwait, Egypt, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Albania. He served for almost 4 years as the Associate Regional Vice President for the Military Division at the University of Phoenix and now serves as the Dean of Academics for the University of Phoenix College of Security & Criminal Justice. Additionally, he is the author of Engineering Peace: The Military Role in Postconflict Reconstruction.
Man 1: Joining us now is Garland Williams. Garland is a U.S. Army retired engineer officer who commanded at all levels from platoon through brigade, with operational deployments to Kuwait, Egypt, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Albania. He served for nearly four years as the Associate Regional Vice President for the Military Division at the University of Phoenix and now serves as the Dean of Academics for the University of Phoenix's College of Security and Criminal Justice.
Garland: Good morning, this is Garland Williams. I'm proud to present Military Service Veterans: An Untapped Technical Pool for Recruitment. I appreciate the chance to talk at the conference today.
I am the Academic Dean for the College of Security and Criminal Justice at the University of Phoenix. But six years ago, this date, I was going to transition from the military. I spent 28 years in the military, retired as a colonel, and I was trying to figure out, what's my next life? What's my next challenge? I had 28 wonderful years in he military, but there's something else going on.
Over the six years that I've been working at the University of Phoenix, I've realized that veterans are an incredible untapped technical pool. And what I would like to do today is to walk you through and show you what those veterans are like, what they do, what they've done in the past, and things that you can do to help them make that transition. And finally, I want to give a good shout-out to go ahead and hire veterans today. They're going to be your best employees when you do that.
On the agenda, I want to talk about the opportunity before you. I want to lay out what's going to happen in the military over the next couple of years and why you have a chance to be able to talk with these people. Now, I also want to explain who are these people that are in the military anyway. It's amazing. Only 1% of the American population has ever served in the military, and only about 2 to 3% of the American population knows somebody in the military. So there's 97 and 99% people out there who really don't understand the military. So I'll try to walk through that a little bit.
After I do that, I want to talk about what I call the 3 M's. As a military HR recruiter or manager, there's no way in the world that you can effectively read a military resume, understand what those jobs are, and be able to translate that into what your corporate needs are. But I'm going to walk you through that. I'm going to show you how you can talk to a veteran to be able to get those key pieces out that you need for corporate America, so you can make an effective decision.
At the end, what now? What do you do with this info? Final comment, just hire them.
Over the next three to five years, over a million service members will be execute in the military. This is for a variety of reasons. One, a lot of our current conflicts are winding down. Therefore, we don't need as many people that are deployed. Number two, there's a law called sequestration that is in effect and, basically, is a budget-saving law for the American government. Unfortunately, in the midst of all that, the American military is hit the hardest since they are the largest part of the budget.
To give you an example of just over the next year, the United States Army is going to have to go from 490,000 soldiers to 450,000 soldiers. I don't know if that makes a lot of impact on you. But when we get to 450,000 soldiers, that will be the smallest army we've had since before World War II.
The million service members that are coming off active duty, the National Guard, and the reserves are battle-tested. They have gone through 14 years of war with multiple deployments, with great responsibility. They have been trained to quickly assess the situation, take the task in mission, break it down into smaller, more simple tasks and to be able to execute to mission completion.
Right now, they're looking for their next opportunity and challenge. They want to further their education, so they have to take a look at their current education and discover what skill gaps they have and fill those skill gaps. They want to figure out what their next job is, what their next career is. And finally, they need to support their families, because over 50% of the military are married.
Now, I emphasized that they are battle-tested and hungry for a challenge for a couple of reasons. Over the last 14 years, America has been at war. We've had several major events to include 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the global war on terrorism. As a prelude to 9/11, many of these service members worked through the 1993 Trade Center bombings. They have responded to the East Africa Embassy bombings, and the Navy has responded to the bombing on the USS Cole. For 9/11, we had the World Trade Center attack. And for me personally, we've endured the Pentagon attack.
In response to that, we've deployed thousands and thousands of service members to Afghanistan, to be able to go after the Taliban and go after the insurgency. We've gone into Iraq to try to reconstruct and de-Baathication the things that were led by Saddam Hussein. And then we are continuing to execute the global war on terrorism.
So these service members that are coming off of active duty, they know what it's to mean to be battle-tested. We use that term in corporate America quite a bit, but they really have done this.
Finally, they're educated in the classroom and in life. And I'll explain to you what their education levels are pretty much. And I also want to say they're trained. There's a difference between education and training. Education is normally what we see in the universities, but training is what they have done to be able to do their jobs. I'll walk you through that as well.
Now, some statistics that you can use. Current unemployment, I didn't put these on the slides because I was hoping that the Bureau of Labor Statistics would come out with their July statistics before I had to record this. But they didn't. So I'll talk to you about the June statistics.
In June, the national unemployment decreased from 5.5% to 5.3%, which is great. And the veteran unemployment decreased from 5% to 4.4%. So okay, veterans unemployment is less than the national average. But there is a discrepancy between males and females. If you look at veterans, 4.1% of males are unemployed, while 6.8% of females across the board are unemployed.
But let's take a look at some of the specific categories for ages. If you look at the 18 to 24 age category, which most of our service members will be when they come out of the military, the male unemployment rate is 14.6%, and the female is 10.5%. From 25 to 34, it reverses role. Male is 5.6%, while female is 16.5%. And from 35 to 44, male is 4.1%, while female is 7%. The reason these are important for these three age categories, all exceed the non-veteran numbers, and 47% of all veterans are within these three age categories.
The military is multifaceted. Any occupation that you would find in a small city, you will find in the military. In one of my last jobs in the military, I was the garrison commander in Japan, which basically meant I was the mayor for 14 or 15 installations. So everything you'd need, from turning on the lights to providing force protection to constructing sidewalks, was found in my labor pool. As we talk about the STEM careers, which we'll do in a few minutes, you'll find that everything you need when you're looking at STEM for your hires can be found in the military workforce.
So who are these people anyway? They're from all walks of life. The majority of service members, for example, come from the southern states and predominantly from rural areas. The southern states are disproportionately represented. They have 42% of the military, which is higher than average. And we have a lower than average percentage from New England for whatever reason. And 14.5% of our recruits in our military are women.
They're diverse. They're multiracial, multilingual, multi-generational. And all socioeconomic groups, all backgrounds are represented. They seem to be, over the last 10 years, come from a slightly wealthier socioeconomic status than the rest of the population, but that is an anomaly, because that's not normally usually the case.
They're very, very young, they're married, and they're in shape. And why would I talk about being in shape? I'll explain that. Majority of our service members will be getting out in their early 20s. They will have come in from out of high school, would have done one or two tours in the military, decide they want to do something else, and they're going to start their civilian career. But of those that came in the military, only 30% of Americans between 18 and 24 are eligible to join the military due to mental, moral, and physical limitations. Of that 3 out of 10, those are the same Americans that our universities are trying to go after. Those are the same Americans that corporate America is trying to go after. And so it's a very select pool.
Almost all of these service members come in with a high school diploma or GED, in fact, 98% come in with that versus 75% of the general population. Some may have some college. As they exit the military, they may have degrees from associates through doctoral. But they also come with educational benefits. All of the officers will have at least a bachelor's degree, and most will have a master's degree.
Now, when I say they'll come with educational benefits, Congress has done an amazing thing passing the GI Bill for these service members. While they're on active duty, these members can use tuition assistance, similar to what you would have in your corporation for tuition assistance, and go to school while on active duty. But that doesn't affect their GI Bill. If they're 100% eligible when they come out based on the time they spent since 9/11 on military service, they can come out with 100% GI Bill, which lasts for 36 months. Essentially, what they can get with that educational benefit is full tuition at a state university, $1,000 for books for a year, plus a living stipend that equals what they would get if they were a sergeant with their family members in the military. If they do it online, they still get all of that except maybe the stipend is a little bit lessened because they're online.
This is important to you. As you look at your corporate tuition assistance benefits that you offer from your company, if you hire a veteran with tuition benefits, they can bring that to you. And that's one less thing you don't have to pay for.
These guys are also in shape. They have had to stay in shape. They are essentially professional athletes, because they have to be able to be ready to deploy at a moment's notice. And if they aren't in shape, the military will kick them out basically. They don't keep the ones that cannot stay in shape. How does that affect you? As you award your health benefits through your corporation, the service members are not going to take that much advantage of that. One, they might use TRICARE instead of yours, which will save your insurance benefits. Or if they do use yours, there won't be as many claims.
They volunteer for public service. These men and women have volunteered for military service for a variety of reasons. Many of them desire to serve their country, and we saw a great wave of recruits coming into the military right after 9/11. Sometimes this is their family business. Their mom or dad was in the military, and that's what they've decided for their career choice. And sometimes it's a chance to see the world, a chance to challenge themselves. Many people have come from rural America. They have not seen much outside of their state, and this is a chance for them to go out and see the world a little bit more.
STEM is highly represented in the military. My first bullet, military is an art and a science, is true. It's a lot of things. As you look at your enemy, as you look at your adversary, the art is trying to read into your adversary's actions and see what counteractions we have to do. But there's an incredible science behind this.
As I was getting ready for this presentation, I went through the various military occupational specialties, rates, and designator codes through the services. And these are a few that I came up with that were definitely science-related that could probably help you out, biomedical equipment specialist, cardiovascular specialist, radiology specialist, cyberspace defense operations, network intelligence analyst, network infrastructure systems. These are highly special technical science positions that the military can bring those skills to your corporation.
The military is also highly technical, much more so than even 10 or 15 years ago. It's a lot to even remember that we used to run the military without email and without PowerPoint. I'm not sure we can do that anymore today. But as a service member comes in, they take something called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test or ASVAB test to help them figure out what their job is going to be.
The more technical military occupational specialists include IT specialist, satellite communications, system operators, telecommunications operations chief in signal intelligence, and cryptologic linguist in the army. These are things that can be used in corporate America, especially the IT specialist. As we look at the hacking that has happened in much of corporate America, these men and women are coming from the service have those skills that can help you prevent those breaches.
The military has rebuilt multiple countries using its engineering skill. That's where I came in. In the army alone, there are 18 military occupational specialists just for engineers, between electricians, designers, carpenters, equipment operators, electronics, to name a few.
If you look at any place that we have deployed over the last 20 years, one of the things that we have done is we have rebuilt the society. We have used in-service members to be able to do that, doing roads and bridges. We've used out-of-service engineering firms to bring up the water systems and the air fields. All of that has been designed by the military. If you're looking for something like that, turn to the military.
And finally, weapons accuracy and logistics relies on math to meet the mission. Even in artillery, even though you may not need somebody that fires artillery rounds, within their job, they use math every day to be able to put the rounds on the correct target.
You also have financial management technicians in the military. PATRIOT launching station enhanced operators, the PATRIOT is a missile. Acquisition, logistics, and technology contracting NCOs, if you need to be able to go out and contract with other firms to be able to do your business. These skills are found in the military.
Fourteen years of war, 9/11 kicked off a period of warfare, which the United States has never seen. It's a non-linear battlefield, which means that we don't have the fronts like we saw in World War II or World War I. We have non-state actors. So trying to figure out who the enemy and who the friendlies were, was very difficult. And the service members that are coming out, have been doing that as routine. They have overcome cultural and language barriers, they have figured out a way to plan for these enemy and also adapt because the enemy has changed their tactics, they operate in small teams embedded in the country, and they also were able to be intercultural and work with teams from other countries.
They are team-ready. Team is the name of the game in the military. They don't just follow orders. They're flexible to change if the plan or the situation changes, and they're rapidly adaptable to new and often changing situations. And they do the mission right, even when the whole world is watching them. And the reason I say that is that if they didn't, you would see it on CNN and Fox News in about 15 minutes.
These men and women are roughly 18 to 20 years old. As I said, they have a high school education. They raised their hand and volunteered and then deployed for up to a year or maybe even more, not knowing exactly when they're coming back or if they're coming back. They volunteered to do this. They may be sitting on a checkpoint somewhere trying to maintain calm and collective in a country that is overrun by chaos. And they have to make instantaneous decisions. As somebody comes up to the checkpoint, they have to make a decision to shoot or not to shoot. And if they make the wrong choice, CNN and Fox will be there. But you know something? They do it right, because you haven't seen it on Fox News.
And now the two elephants in the room I want to address. First question, if I hire a veteran, am I hiring someone who has ongoing issues of PTSD or TBI? Answer, maybe, but probably not. And you already have employees that suffer from some kind of PTSD, and you probably don't know it. Statistics show that 7% of all Americans suffer from PTSD, and the military is no different.
You've heard an awful lot in the news about soldiers coming back with terrible brain injuries and requiring month-to-month of therapy to be able to overcome, and that is absolutely true. But that's not the majority of the military. Majority of the military are coming back, and they have absolutely no aspects or suffers from PTSD. And the ones that do, are getting training, are getting rehabilitation, and serve fine in corporate America.
The second one, if I hire a veteran, can they adapt to corporate environment? Can they fit in? Aren't they only used to taking orders? Answer is probably, probably, and no.
If you hire a veteran, can they adapt to corporate environment? Certainly. One of the things that the military does very well is they plan. But that plan only survives the first enemy contact, and they have to adapt. If they take looking for a job in corporate America as their next mission, they set up a plan to interview, and they go out and interview, they get hired, then they're going to adapt to whatever it is that corporate America throws at them.
Can they fit in? Absolutely. They may need some help. In the interview, you may see a service member come in in an ill-fitting suit because he really hasn't worn a suit very much in the last couple of years. He's worn camouflage. And maybe he'd worn a suit to church. He'll say, "Yes, sir," "No, sir," "Yes, ma'am, "No, ma'am," in the interview just because that's what he's trained to do in the military, unless they might be from the south like I am, and that's ingrained.
And they might sit at a modified position of attention when they come in to do their interview, and they're very, very stiff because, again, that's what they were trained for in the military. They just have never done business interviews before.
Oh, and this is the first time of writing a resume. They've never had to write a resume in the military. For me, I was 50 years old when I first wrote my first resume, and I was scared to death. As a combat engineer, I was trying to figure out how to put 28 years of blowing stuff up and put it into two pages that corporate America would want to look at.
What I recommend to you is look past that. Take a look at what they're bringing to you as a skill set. They are coming educated. They are coming with leadership training. What you need to do is to be able to help them fit into your corporate environment and help them fit in and be a great member of the team.
All right. I am probably just confusing you now. I've talked about rates. I've talked about MOSs. I've talked about designators. I've talked about different branches. I've not talked about, but there are differences among enlisted, warrant officers, and officers. And I could go on. I could talk about the black shoe navy versus the brown shoe navy. I could talk about the light army versus the heavy army, or even the culture surrounding the air force fighter pilot. But that's enough. You don't need to know all that. What you need to know is, how do you read the resumes? And how do you interview them? And how can you get the information you need to be able to make a smart choice about bringing them into your corporation?
Over the last six years, I've figured out that regardless of what it says in their resume and regardless of what you're looking for, you can boil their resumes down to manpower, money, and materiel. And let me explain.
First, manpower. The military operates in teams called squads or companies, battalions, brigades, flights, squadrons, groups, and the list goes on and on. And really, with no military experience, an HR manager may not know what any of that is. Also, they might have a hard time understanding the difference between what a mortarman is or a gunnery sergeant or fuel handler. But what HR managers do bring is they understand teams and leadership. So in that vein, ask the veteran a situational question about the times when they led their team, and what did they do to prepare their team for operations, again, whether it's a squad, a squadron, groups, flights, brigades? Basic tenets of leadership come through that translate very, very well from military service into corporate America. So concentrate on that. And I believe what the HR manager will find were those leadership tenets that he wants to see or she wants to see within their company.
The next M, money. HR managers probably have no clue what a prescribed load list is or what ULLS stands for. They may not understand what a modified table of equipment is or what NAF, non-appropriated funds, AF, appropriated funds, or MILCON, military construction stands for. Again, you don't need to know all that. But what you do want to ask the veteran is about any projects they brought in at or under budget. Because just like corporate America, the military works on tasks. They work in a task environment. And they use project planning just as we do in corporate America, and they have to bring things under budget because we do not have an infinite amount of money in the military to carry out our missions.
Also ask the veteran about his or her experience requisitioning replacement parts or equipment. There is a very specific way and a money level that they have to meet, that they can't exceed throughout the year. And they have to watch their money just as you would within your corporation.
And ask the veteran about how they allocated time, equipment, and people to complete a project. Just like you, they've had to do project-planning to be able to carry out their tasks, and they're working hard toward mission completion.
And finally, materiel. And no, that's not a misspelling, materiel stuff. How much stuff were they responsible for and accountable for? Again, HR managers probably have no idea what a Bradley fighting vehicle is or a mobile kitchen trailer or a common number 1 tool kit. And they may not understand what's all involved in a change of command inventory or what a monthly 10% inventory means. And all these are, are ways that military used to account for their equipment and to make sure it's ready to go to war.
But if you ask the veteran about their routine accountability procedures, I think you'll be amazed. The change of command inventory between two commanders is a complete inventory down to the individual screw driver, so that one commander can change the property book over to another commander. That commander is assigned for that. And if he loses it, if they misplace it, if they break it, he has to replace it, or he has to pay for it if it's lost. And a monthly 10% inventory is taking a 10% of that property book to make sure that over the course of a year, they redo the inventory to make sure everything is there. Ask the veteran about that. How do they go about doing that? How do they get their team in the mindset of being able to account for their equipment?
And also ask the veteran about maintaining their equipment, both personal equipment, weapons, and personal gear, and also team equipment. Our youngest squad leaders in the army, who are 21 years old, are assigned for millions of dollars worth of equipment. They have an infantry fighting vehicle, that's worth millions of dollars and requires millions of dollars worth of maintenance. And they do it right. It is up to them to make sure it's ready to go to war. And if it's not ready to go to war, that has its life and death problems.
So the 3 M's.
So what now? You have a need to hire educated leaders of character. And the military has provided education and training for each of their service members in just over 200 military occupational specialties in the army alone. And they're probably equal amount in the other services as well.
Every service member goes through leadership education. It's tailored to their rank and to their specialty. And the reason is if if they're in battle and their boss is injured or killed, they have to step up into that leadership position and take command. That is what's driven into every service member's head through basic training. And that's how we account for leadership.
And they live in the best leadership lab known in the world. The U.S. military prides itself on making sure that its leaders are educated in both civilian and military tactics and that they know how to work with service members through all environments.
And finally, the military's conducted background checks of various rigor based on rank and specialty to verify character. Remember when I said that only 3 out of 10 are eligible to go into the military? One of those is moral character. If you had a felony, if you had any kind of problems in the past, you probably will not be able to enlist in the military.
And if any of those service members fail in these three attributes while they're in service, the military has eliminated them from service. There is a code called the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and if our service members are not living up to that code, then they are what we call chaptered out of the military to be able to go find their other calling.
So the military applicants that are coming to you have already been vetted. They are the best of the top 30%. They are coming to you again with educational benefits. They are coming to you with life skills. They are coming to you with the ability to take a complex task, break it down to a simple parts and to be able to complete the mission in plenty of time.
My advice, hire them now. And then train them in your culture. They may never have worked in your particular industry. But that shouldn't stop you. Hire them for what they do bring, and then train them to what you need them to do within your culture and within your company.
My final comment, again, just hire them. You won't be disappointed in your decision.
I appreciate your time and attention. And if you have any questions, please contact HireVue who will be able to direct the questions to me.
If you stay tuned and come in back, catch the keynote at noon, that'll be wonderful. And the conference will continue on, and you have a great time.
Again, thank you for your time. And I look forward to your questions if they come through.