A new initiative from Prime Minister Turnbull will aim to help businesses take an active role in veterans employment. What can you do to break down the barriers?
Australia’s military received a boost earlier this year when the Turnbull government announced a $450 billion budget for the ADF over the next decade. At the time, he described the extra spend as “an investment in defence materiel … but it’s [also] an investment in our economy, it’s an investment in security without which nothing can be obtained.”
Currently, our defence forces number more than 57,000 permanent members across the navy, army and airforce, with an additional 23,000 in the reserved forces. However, the permanent ADF workforce is expected to increase to 64,000 in the next 10 years, the largest it has been since 1993.
Growth in this sector will undoubtedly lead to more active duty soldiers and military personnel, but with this comes an increase in veterans returning to civilian life – and the civilian workforce.
That’s not always an easy transition, which is why PM Turnbull will today launch a new program to help ex-service members find and retain employment. The Veterans Employment Initiative will ask government, businesses and the community at large to take a more active role in employing ex-service members. It’s a call to arms that John Bale, CEO of Soldier On, an organisation dedicated to reintegrating service members into civilian life, welcomes.
Bale, a former army captain with 12 years of service behind him, says that people leave military service with a host of valuable skills and experiences that make them ideal job candidates.
“Veterans have amazing technical knowledge, leadership, communication skills, teamwork, the list goes on,” he says. However, there is still some stigma attached to returning service members that throws up barriers.
“People believe that everyone is negatively impacted by their service, when in fact many aren’t,” he says. “And those that are can still be incredible employees, but they just need some support. We need to break down this barrier of people thinking returning service members are broken.”
Some ex-service members do sustain psychological and physical injuries, but Bale says this should in no way be a determining factor in whether a veteran is hired. One way to end these misconceptions is more education for businesses about this group’s unique needs, but also the benefits that come with employing veterans.
Bale says he hopes the Veterans Employment Initiative will bring more businesses into the fold and create a long-term solution. Getting this right will only become more crucial, as military service is starting to mirror employment trends elsewhere. The average length of service is now 7.5 years, which means most ex-service members will still have four or five careers ahead of them when they leave the military.
“Gone are the days of 12 to 13 years of service – you don’t stay in the same job for very long,” he says. “When you have four or five careers left in your lifetime, it’s critical to get that first job out of the military right. Otherwise, it can jade their view of society and industry, which is not a good outcome.”
In response to the Veterans Employment Initiative, Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) Chairman and National President Peter Wilson AM says that AHRI will now make employment of retired military personnel a formal part of its inclusion and diversity strategy.
“Just as we acknowledge the need for inclusion and diversity based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, Indigenous status, disability and more, we will promote employment of veterans as strongly as we do other groups,” he says.
The organisation is eager to work with PM Turnbull on the Veterans Employment Initiative, and invites HR practitioners to take a proactive approach to hiring ex-service members.
“We need to think laterally about roles ex-military personnel can undertake,” says Wilson. He encourages HR professionals to have open minds to see how veterans’ skills align with the needs of their business. “What gets promulgated gets done. We hope that including ex-service members in our inclusion and diversity strategy means it will make its way into more organisations’ mission and vision statements.”