New initiative to help veterans struggling to find work
When David Blasman left the Canadian Army Reserve in 2012, he struggled to find work in construction. Though he had 10 years of military experience and been promoted to senior leadership positions several times, what he didn't have was the formal certification of his peers.
"The worst part was when I got back home, looking for work, the biggest question from employers was 'What's your college or university (education)?' And then the next big question was experience. Well, that's the difficult part. A lot of my experience was military," Blasman told CTV's Canada AM Monday.
Blasman was an expert in explosives in Afghanistan, but it wasn't a skill he could transfer into the workforce back home. He also lacked the computer finesse needed to apply for jobs electronically.
Many veterans face Blasman's problems when they return to civilian life. While they know about discipline, hard work, and how to work in a team, many simply don't have formal skills. That may be why federal statistics show the unemployment rate for veterans is typically several percentage points higher than for the general public.
But Blasman has helped launch a new initiative that could make it easier for vets looking for work online. This week, Kijiji Canada is launching the Veteran-Friendly Job designation, a program that will allow employers who are interested in hiring veterans to place a yellow “Support Our Troops Ribbon” on their ads.
Veterans, for their part, can choose to filter their job search to only those employers who say they are "veteran friendly" and willing to consider their military experience as real-world experience.
Chris Harris, the head of real estate and jobs at Kijiji Canada, says the site did a "soft launch" of the new program on June 19 and has already had 1,700 employers choose to add the "Veteran Friendly Job" ribbon to their ads.
Blasman says he expects the initiative will be "a huge breakthrough for veterans," helping them find employers who will appreciate their experience.
"When you look at the basic foundations of soldiers and what are trained in, these skill sets are very important. And the way they could apply them with jobs and companies, it's huge," he said.
As well, Blasman hopes that when employers using Kijiji notice the ribbon icons, they will begin thinking about hiring a veteran.
Damon Bennett was also behind the initiative. The long-time construction contractor has long hired veterans because he's found that most are loyal employees who are ready and eager to start a new career.
"When I brought a couple of veterans onto the workforce a couple of years ago, I could just see them blossom," he said.
When one of his employees suggested approaching Kijiji to see if they'd be interested in something to help out-of-work veterans, Bennett thought it was a great idea.
He liked hiring vets but found that the only way he could find them was through word-of-mouth or through charities. With this initiative, not only would he helping vets, he'd also be helping the construction industry, which is predicted to lose about half its workforce over the next few years, as aging workers retire.
"Here, we have a huge potential workforce who's being relieved of duty and the construction industry needs them. So this all fit in with I needed as well," he said.
Bennett says while Kijiji was on board with the idea right from the start, it took about a year of discussions to work out how to manage the Veteran-Friendly Job Designation. But now that it's launching, he couldn't be more pleased.
"This is probably the most important thing, I think, I've ever been part of in my life. So, very proud to do this," he said.