According to the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, there are nearly one million unemployed military veterans in the USA. The Department of Labor reports that, for some veteran groups, unemployment is 20% higher than the national average. At the same time, Silicon Valley Bank reports that 90% of new startups will increase headcount this year, but that many of them can’t find the workers they need to do so. How are our soldiers –- individuals who have made extraordinary sacrifice and who have received some of the most sophisticated training and leadership experience that exists in the world –-not returning home to the job security and stability for which we've led them to believe they’re fighting all along? And how is it that businesses are struggling to find good talent when it appears to be abundant and of the highest caliber?
While these statistics are disheartening, it would be naïve to believe that the conundrum could be fixed by simply plugging all the hiring holes with veterans. Businesses require specific talent, and veterans often want the kind of stability that many startups can't offer. Former soldiers, though, note that at least part of the problem is due to employer misconception –- i.e., when transitioning back into the private sector, some companies communicate that their experiences were "too military".
The value of good people on a team is unquestioned. While it's always questionable to make a global statement about a group of individuals, it's safe to state that, generally, veterans bring to the table:
~ Strong personal integrity ~ Ultimate team-player mentality
~ Strong leadership qualities ~ Uncompromising integrity
~ Diversity amongst ranks and strong interpersonal skills ~ Habitual goal orientation
~ Leadership readiness at virtually every level ~ Ability to learn new skills and concepts
~ Respect for procedures and accountability ~ Flexibility to work in teams or independently
~ Composure and creativity under pressure ~ Ability to work efficiently and diligently in a fast-paced
~ Big-picture understanding and relentless attention environment
to detail ~ Hands-on experience with technology and
As a progressive organization and leader in our transformational movement, the US Caribbean Chapter has a unique opportunity -- and responsibility -- to be part of the solution and make a difference in these heroes' lives. Doing so will also boost the quality of our greater green building community. Perhaps more than ever, startups are in a position to grow their ranks and simultaneously reduce veteran unemployment. This is an accomplishable mission for companies –- upstarts and established alike -– and the US Caribbean Chapter can lead and hopefully establish a foundation for a program of assistance and partnership that will grow to all Chapters in the broad USGBC network.
OVERVIEW OF USGBC’S GREEN VETERANS PROGRAM
The USGBC Green Veterans program was founded by the South Florida Chapter in 2013 by a disabled combat Veteran and a long-standing USGBC (civilian) volunteer. The SF Chapter’s Green Veterans committee quickly grew to almost a dozen volunteers who were both new to the USGBC community and had little prior awareness of green building or sustainability. Local programs are diverse and productive. Amongst other topics and activities, the Green Vets have discussed the realities of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the role of therapeutic gardens and building design on stress reduction and PTSD treatment. They have collaborated with local nonprofits to collect furniture for Veterans, and also pulled together a team to repair a Veteran's home. They have gathered socially to grow our ranks and discuss our mission, including a recent BBQ that was great fun and that drew representatives from more than two dozen organizations.
More recently, the Green Veterans have led conversations with other local Veterans organizations to create a Sustainability Boot Camp. The USGBC Chapter and local educational institutions are partnering to hold training classes for the LEED Green Associate exam, along with HERS, Resnet and BPI training. All exam fees are covered for Veterans by the GI Bill. From there, the Green Veterans are partnering with non-profits like Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity to provide On-The-Job experience for those recently trained Vets. Once complete with the training and OJT, Green Veterans then is partnering with United Way’s ‘Missioned United’ initiative and the ‘Green Collar Vets’ organization to provide permanent jobs and bring the Veterans into the green building workforce.
Based on its success in South Florida, the Green Veterans program is now expanding into other Chapters across the USGBC Network. The program and start-up tools have been created to make the program replicable. In addition, the Green Veterans co-founders are committed the program’s success in each Chapter and have volunteered to assist the Chapter (remotely and possibly in-person) in its formative efforts.
VETERANS FOCUS AREAS
1) Reintegration - Green Veterans Group aims to empower Veterans to use their military acumen to help sustain the very nation they fought so hard for, by collaborating with civilian and veteran alike on green initiatives.
2) Sustainability Training - Through the Green Veterans Sustainability Training Program we will provide practical green education Veterans can utilize to gain experience and confidence that will be valuable to prospective employers.
3) Veteran-Oriented Service Projects - As part of the curriculum, students will connect with partner organizations to collaborate on community projects utilizing their training.
4) Trauma Resolution Thru Green Building- Green Veterans will roll out our Trauma Resolution Space Design Concept by implementing WELL Rating systems to simultaneously affect mental well-being of the spaces we are trying to enhance.