In last month’s edition of The Bridge, I wrote about January unemployment numbers for Veterans aged 18-24 years old, particularly women. Thank you for your many responses, which I read with great interest. Continuing the conversation, I’d like to look at another facet of the same problem.
A bit of context first. Most of my time and attention over the last decade has focused on Veteran transition and employer readiness. Breaking down barriers to hiring Veterans underpins many of the solutions I bring to market. For example, the Certified Veteran Recruiter Program (CVR) tackles a whole swath of barriers, starting with job reqs that exclude Veterans with arbitrary and, some might say elitist, requirements. Specifically, academic degrees that say nothing of a Veteran’s ability to do a job. (My favorite anecdote on this topic is the hiring manager who, when asked why a college degree was required for a specific job, responded, “Completing a degree says something about a person’s commitment and ability to follow through.” And military service during wartime doesn’t?). We pay special attention in the CVR Program to writing inclusive job reqs and developing confidence and skills to influence hiring managers away from such arbitrary standards.
Now, with that said, I shall move on to my larger point. Recently, at an event hosted by a large defense industry association, I had my eyes opened as to a third factor in the employment equation: the government itself. Apparently, in many cases where a company would consider a non-degreed Veteran, the government/DoD prevents it. RFPs may include degree requirements that could be replaced with “degree preferred” or “equivalent work experience.” Just as we see in so many civilian organizations, degree requirements may be arbitrary and not a reflection of what is truly required to do a given job.
I worked for Booz Allen Hamilton for 10 years before striking out on my own and then joining The Buller Group, and do not think of myself as naïve on such matters. However, this came as a surprise in a cultural climate that embraces hiring Veterans. Many voices, from the President and Senators on down, are heard calling employers to hire Veterans. Wouldn’t it be something to discover that the government’s own contracting process is barring the way?