Our nation’s economy is incredibly strong. Nearly six million jobs have been added since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. The United States has not seen an unemployment rate this low on a Labor Day since 1969. The veteran unemployment rate has been lower than the non-veteran unemployment rate for 12 consecutive months, a true recognition of the value veterans bring to the workforce. However, in an economy this strong, there are many more skilled jobs to fill, and the heroes of our American military stand ready to bridge the gap.
Over seven million jobs are currently open in our nation. Job creators from across the country have open jobs and are searching for the right individuals to fill them. These are good, family-sustaining jobs, such as nurses, IT support specialists, construction workers, welders and web developers. These are vital jobs that require skilled individuals. At the Department of Labor, we are spreading the word about the pipeline of service-member talent completing their military duties and transitioning into civilian life. Our military generates nearly 200,000 veterans each year, disciplined and skilled leaders who stand ready to fill these jobs and, most importantly, these veterans understand, perhaps better than anyone, the dignity of work that is vital to every individual.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) partners with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to administer the Transition Assistance Program for members of the military returning to civilian life. Through this program, service members leaving the military learn about the education and employment resources available and how to translate their military service into a language their civilian counterparts will understand. Even commanding generals with experience leading battalions of America’s fiercest warriors into combat will tell you the transition to civilian life can be a difficult challenge to overcome.
Through the Transition Assistance Program, service members are given the tools to succeed in the private sector with an emphasis on translating skills, interviewing, networking and résumé building. VETS also carries out the president’s intent to enhance opportunities for military spouses who face enormous career obstacles imposed by repeated relocation. Collaborating with agencies throughout government, VETS actively engages states to expand the portability of occupational licenses and credentials so that military spouses can continue their careers as they move in service to our nation. Momentum is building, and many states have responded by enacting legislation to help military spouses with license recognition this year. Military spouses can quickly find out the information relevant to their upcoming moves at veterans.gov/milspouses. (In New Mexico “state agencies shall issue licenses as soon as practicable to military spouses,” according to the website).
With near-historic low unemployment and increasing demand for skilled employees nationwide, DOL partners with industry leaders to emphasize the availability of apprenticeship programs as another valuable option that the hard-earned GI Bill can bolster. While enrolled in a DOL apprenticeship program, veterans receive a monthly housing stipend from their GI Bill benefits to supplement their apprenticeship income. Americans that complete a registered apprenticeship earn an average starting wage of approximately $70,000.
As we assist our veterans to make a successful transition into the civilian workforce, we also recognize the job creators who are making veteran hiring a priority. President Trump signed the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act of 2017 (HIRE Vets Act). VETS established the HIRE VETS Medallion Program as an award for employer-applicants meeting specific veteran employment and retention criteria. The medallion will help transitioning service members and job-seeking veterans to identify proven “veteran-ready” employers. After a successful demonstration project in 2018, we are very excited to deliver these awards around Veterans Day this November.
Our national security is strong with our all-volunteer force focused on the mission of defending America. Our patriotism and pride in each of these young Americans is repaid when we do our very best to strengthen the pathway to a prosperous career that exists after their military service is complete.