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Welcoming Veterans into Construction is a Win-Win Situation
5 Minute Read
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Kevin Forestell
November 11, 2019

Veterans Are A Large Part of The Population

Veterans make up 13% of the Canadian and US population. 

Every year around 250,000 people leave the US military and begin the process of integrating back into civilian life. This transition is difficult for a number of reasons. Reconnecting with family and friends can be hard after serving. Daily routines are completely changed. Many veterans struggle with what to do next. 65 – 80% of veterans return home with no job lined up, making this transition even more stressful. 

With the value we place on our military and their service, it’s surprising that it would be so hard for them to find jobs after returning home. More than half of veterans who are looking for work say that they struggle to find employment. The value placed on education and practical experience, and the stereotypes about ex-military people deter employers from placing them on their list of “must have new hires”. 

The construction industry is in a unique position to change this for veterans everywhere. The similarity in valuable skills, development programs and workstyle make construction a natural career fit for military veterans returning home.

Why Is It Hard for Veterans To Find Jobs?

It’s hard for veterans to find jobs because modern workplaces value education and experience over soft skills. Most people who serve in the military join directly after high school and their only work experience is in the military. The kinds of skills developed during their military career do not naturally translate into experience in civilian life. Military Skills Translator is a tool which helps to bridge this divide. It connects military careers and experiences to the civilian equivalent. It also helps to show veterans how their skills can translate and what their career possibilities could be. However, this is just one small tool for a broken machine that constantly works against veterans.

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Veterans struggle to combat negative stereotypes before they’re even granted an interview. Image borrowed from Forbes

Stereotypes linked to military personnel work against them before they even have the chance to present themselves. Employers question their ability to adapt to a corporate work structure and to follow “civilian” orders. Veterans are viewed as being formal and rigid. According to a recent survey, 40% of civilians believe that the majority of post-9/11 veteran suffer from a mental health condition. Veterans are viewed as difficult to manage, “broken” from deployment and as having anger management issues and post-traumatic stress.

The reality is that only 17% of employers believe hiring veterans can be an asset to a company. One survey found that 53% of employees believe that veterans will not have a successful career after the military. It’s surprising that their return home is not met with as much faith and belief as we have in them during their military service.  The reality is that hiring veterans is an asset for your business.

What Construction Can Gain From Valuing Veterans

Construction has been facing a labour shortage for years. There are major gaps in skilled labourers and operators. Because of this the industry is already seeing rising costs, a slower progression towards completion in projects, an inability to keep up with demand, and difficulty managing and controlling teams. A lack of leadership is causing major problems. For the future of the industry, workers with a strong work ethic and leadership skills are needed. 

The construction industry could be the perfect post military career for anyone seeking employment after serving. Many of the skills and values developed in the military are seen as strengths within the construction industry, unlike other industries which view them as weaknesses. Creating an easier path for veterans to transition from the military to a career in construction is a win-win situation. Veterans can have a stable job that values their experiences and the construction industry will have skilled labourers to fill jobs.

Construction is a great fit for veterans leaving the military. The construction industry needs to do more to welcome veterans returning home and to establish themselves as a career option. The result is a workforce full of hardworking, dedicated and passionate leaders who feel their service to their country is celebrated.

Why Veterans Should Choose Construction

Construction and the military both value and attract many of the same skill sets and personality traits. Both are currently transitioning from being male dominated to more diverse in gender. They both value training, work ethic, and relationships. The skills developed in the military naturally translate into construction easily. 

The construction industry would not require military vets to transform their way of working and thinking. Many of the stereotypical “negative” traits are seen as strong leadership qualities. The qualities that make someone successful in the military can also make someone successful in construction. These include hard work, passion, loyalty, honesty, commitment and drive. The passion which drives someone to join the military and to serve your country can be used to build the country’s infrastructure, schools, roads, and cities.

The Role of Construction in Creating This Relationships

Many of those who leave the military and begin the process of job hunting have never applied for jobs before. Creating a resume or being interviewed may be a new experience. They may not know how to translate the skills they learned during their time in service into civilian skills. The construction industry can do it’s duty in supporting returning veterans by providing the resources to veterans to be set up for success in the industry. 

5 Ways Construction Can Welcome Veterans

The construction industry can do better to make career opportunities easier for veterans to find. There are also ways that companies can help them be successful and thrive in a construction career. 5 ways to do this include: connecting with veterans organization, providing training and education opportunities, promoting work-life balance, developing a warm company culture, and to provide benefits to both veterans and ll employees.

1. Connect With Organizations and Efforts Which Support Veterans

Make your company and career opportunities visible to veterans. Programs such as Veterans Build America make it easy for companies to reach out to the veteran population and to learn how to welcome and support veterans within teams. Helmets to Hardhats is a nonprofit organization also hoping to develop a connection between veterans and construction. They have American and Canadian branches which provide resources for veterans and employers who are looking to hire and be hired. 

Smaller, local companies can get in touch with a local legion or military office to discuss career opportunities and learn the best way to reach local veterans. Make yourself visible, your opportunities know, and follow through on your commitment to military veterans. 

2. Offer Training and Education Opportunities

Opportunities to develop new skills and to grow within their new career will make your company more appealing to veterans. Personal and professional development go hand in hand in the military where your work is your life. This mindset is the same in construction, so the ability to grow in both aspects should be encouraged and promoted. 

3. Promote Work-Life Balance

For many in the military, it is common to be deployed for months at a time. This time away can be incredibly fulfilling and involved travel and adventure. It can also be lonely and make military personnel feel disconnect to the ones they love. A second career which allows for more personal time to spend with family could be a deciding factor for veterans. Providing your employees – veterans or not – a proper work/life balance can actually increase productivity and happiness on the job. 

Quality time with family and friends can be high on the priority list for veterans seeking a second career. 

4. Foster Company Culture and Encourage Networking

The importance of comradery and family is found in both construction and the military. Military members can spend more time with each other than with their families. This feeling of “family” at work is a value that often carries on after the military. Working together, standing up for each other, and having each others backs are values which feed into their personal relationships and should be taken seriously. Developing a strong work culture which promotes this comradeship can help you company appeal to veterans and help them to feel at home. Plus, it makes a job site more enjoyable for everyone. 

Team work, collaboration, and leadership are qualities which are valued in both the military and in construction.

5. Showcase Employee Benefits

Benefits are great for anyone looking for a job. Stereotypes aside, military vets could suffer from physical and mental illnesses. They may view benefits as an important factor in choosing their next career. Make benefits available to all employees – new and old – and promote them during hiring campaigns. It’s also important to highlight additional benefits such as retirement plans, salaries, bonuses, and any other benefits which are offered.

Doing Right By Our Military

The men and women in the military put themselves and their families second to serve their country. After finishing their service, adapting to civilian life is made more difficult by the struggle of securing a stable, well paying job. The construction industry has the power to ease this transition. Using resources to connect with veterans will not only help veterans find a fulfilling career, but help build a strong workforce for the industry moving forward. 

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Kevin Forestell headshot
Kevin Forestell
Kevin Forestell is CEO of DOZR and one of the co-founders. Kevin first got started as an entrepreneur when he founded Forestell Landscaping right after graduating from University. His love and passion for the industry and desire to help solve an equipment problem that contractors faced every day is what brought the founding team to start DOZR. Kevin is proud of the level of efficiency brought to the industry through DOZR and hopes that DOZR will help change the standard way equipment is rented.
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