This Remembrance Day Be Mindful of Young Unemployed Veterans Seeking Employment

When I was studying HR at BCIT, a key component of my program was completing a period of Directed Studies, where we worked as project managers to complete an HR project for a company in the field. To choose an assignment, representatives from companies all over Greater Vancouver were gathered together to deliver their pitches to us, allowing each student to choose a project that resonated best with them.

One project that has always stuck in my mind became known as the Reservist Re-entry Project. It involved finding ways to help young veterans market themselves better to hiring managers. When Lieutenant Colonel (Ret’d) John Appleby approached BCIT’s School of Business to take on the project, his concern was supporting Canadian soldiers who had served in Afghanistan gain support returning to civilian life. In particular, he wanted students to work with veterans to identify transferrable skills they had gained overseas, and help them communicate those assets to employers.

I’ll never forget meeting a young man who was likely in his mid-twenties – my age at the time – who explained to us that the challenge with finding employment in Canada was that since his skills gained through military service involved specific combat action, his applications to grocery stores or retail outlets would be rejected because his skills didn’t match the ones they were seeking. I remember him saying “I can throw a grenade, fire a rifle and shout commands while bombs are going off around me, but I can’t get a job at a grocery store.”

Today the program is known as The Legion Military Skills Conversion Program, and is funded by the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command.  Participants in the program choose from three paths:

1. Go to school and get a credential

2. Become an entrepreneur & start a business

3. Get a job

The project is led by Natalie Hargott, CHRP, one of my classmates from BCIT. Along with another classmate of ours, she took on this project as her Directed Studies assignment back in 2009. Now she works at BCIT as the Legion Military Skills Conversion Program project manager. I touched base with Natalie recently to ask her more about the project, and you can access my Interview with Natalie Hargott, CHRP for more information.

On this Remembrance Day, I challenge you to take a moment to respect the fallen, and to reflect on the lives of the young men and women whose faces rarely come to mind when we think of veterans. Not all of today’s veterans are over the age of 50. You’ll never know who among you on the train, or in a grocery store has served for the military overseas.

Canadians are still dealing with high unemployment rates. As a result, it is still an employer’s market: because there are so many applicants for each vacant position, recruiters receive hundreds of applicants for postings in highly populated areas such as Greater Vancouver.

To job hunters who are dealing with the financial stress and emotional challenges that come with unemployment, this Nov 11th I urge you to be mindful of young veterans in the same position as you. When you are seeking employment, it is such a burden to hear ‘you didn`t get this job because it wasn`t meant for you.’ However, since it is Nov 11th, perhaps that statement of consolation will be more kindly received because among the unemployed in Canada are veterans of war who have served overseas in their mid-twenties over the last ten years.

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