“Don’t give me a parade, give me a job” is a common cadence you will hear concerning the dismal employment options for returning military veterans. These kinds of statements are battle-cries to awaken the rest of Americans to honor these veterans by hiring them and offering more than the past.
In an earlier time, the G.I. Bill offered incentives for colleges and universities to open their doors and give educational access to our veterans. Back then, there was a certain expectation that a job would be there after earning a degree, even many government jobs were available. But in recent times, with the government shrinking, unemployment rising, and job options diminishing, going back to school for a degree seems pointless, since no future job will be waiting.
In these upcoming days, months, and years how can Americans still honor returning military veterans?
Perhaps this is a time to reassess or redefine education, learning, and employment. The experiences of war have given many veterans all of the required education needed for securing a job. However, these experiences are not easily documented or transferred into customary courses or resumes. The lessons many veterans have learned are worth more than college credit.
Yet there is an approach within some colleges called ‘prior learning assessments’ (PLA), which attempt to evaluate learning from experiences such as the military. Traditionally, these assessments suggest academic credits when attending college. Although this is a good start, perhaps these assessments could provide more recommendations when searching for job openings too.
For example, there are other assessments such as the National Work Readiness Credential (NWRC) that attempts to score test-takers of their readiness for future employment. In a similar way, prior learning assessments could be transformed into future work assessments that could rival traditional resumes and other job-readiness exams. Many of these evaluations look for reasoning, judgment, attention-to-detail, and other characteristics that many returning veterans already have; in addition to having character, integrity, and loyalty, which any future employer would value.
What I would like to see are more transition programs that would place veterans in work internships while improving any additional education and learning needed. But instead of just the traditional skills and competencies, learners are given an opportunity to nurture their strengths and talents. These programs would point veterans in the right direction in pursuing the most appropriate profession, equipped with an entrepreneurial knowledge and spirit to create their own jobs in the future.
In the end, what I’ve noticed about many returning military veterans is that they are committed to making a difference. All that Americans need to do, is to honor them by giving them something different; not just a welcome-home salute, but alternative solutions that they fully deserve.