“What we really need is a tool to help us better prepare our student veterans for their new/first civilian career.”
That was the statement I heard many times over the past two years from various veteran service programs on college campuses. They told me that with their limited budget, staff and time, it was challenging enough to support their student veterans with get enrolled and supporting them throughout the college experience. Trying to add any meaningful career programming was almost impossible.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report, approximately half of the separating Post 9/11 Veterans will face a period of unemployment. As a result, many choose a path of higher education in hopes of creating better career opportunities. However, many of these student veterans are leaving college underemployed or unemployed. Was college not the right choice?
The National Association of Colleges and Employers provides an annual report on The Skills/Qualities Employers Want in New College Graduate Hires. Surprisingly, a lot of the skill sets/qualities employers are seeking today are not much different than they were 10 years ago. Leadership, Ability to Work in a Team, Communication Skills, Problem Solving, Strong Work Ethic are the TOP 5. Interestingly enough, these are the exact skills military veterans possess. Add to this a college education and you have the PERFECT CANDIDATE. So why are student veterans experiencing underemployment or unemployment? My travels this past winter gave me some insight into the problem.
I work with career service professionals, as well as veteran service professionals on college campuses. Both groups held several conferences this winter that I had the opportunity to speak. In my programs I talked about the contents of our new book, Camo to Career – The Veteran’s Guide to Career Success. At the career conferences, the audience members would take copies of the book I was handing out and state “I’ll take this back and share it with our veteran services team.” When I went to the veteran services conference and handed out copies of the book, recipients would say, “I’ll take this back and share it with our career services team.”. That’s when it dawned on me. Our student veterans are not receiving the career programming they need to achieve career success because their is a confusion on campus as to who should be providing them career programming. Career Services and Veteran Services are pointing at each other.
I dug into this a bit more over the past couple of months. I called back to the campuses of the veteran service programs that asked me to create a career tool. But instead of calling the veteran services team on that campus, I called the career service team. I asked them why they weren’t offering programming for their student veteran population. After a period of explanation for my question, the responses were surprising. Most indicated they would like to assist the student veteran population but the veteran center staff:
- are protective and possessive.
- believe they know what is best for the student veterans.
- do not trust anyone outside of their center.
Then I called the veteran service team members and asked them a similar question about why they didn’t collaborate more with the career services team. There response was that career services:
- put student veterans into boiler plate programming and don’t take into consideration their unique situation.
- do not understand military terminology/culture.
- do not understand how to convert military experiences to civilian terms.
Interesting, right? Do you see a disconnect?
Now don’t get me wrong. This is not the situation on all college campuses. In fact, there are some pretty amazing programs across the country where student veterans have the ability to participate in some phenomenal career programming. And the campuses with these programs have one consistent component – a STRONG collaboration between their career services and veteran services programs. They work hand-in-hand, they have peer-run programming, they share work study students, and the list goes on and on. COLLABORATION!
We are inviting any and all professionals working in career services and veteran services programs to participate. Our goal…to stop the finger pointing and help our student veterans get amazing careers. God knows they deserve at least that…but definitely a lot more.
I encourage you to participate in this FREE webinar. Unfortunately, space is limited to 100 people. And don’t worry about time. We limited this discussion to 30 minutes. Because if it takes longer than that to get program leaders from these departments to see what their disconnect on campus is creating – then chances are, there priorities are definitely not focused on the correct goal.