Australian past service men proudly wearing their war medals and marching in the ANZAC Day Memorial Military March.
Australian past service men proudly wearing their war medals and marching in the ANZAC Day Memorial Military March. pamspix

Return to work program for Veterans

A NEW Federal Government program provides an opportunity for older Veterans to return to work or seek new work opportunities across government and private industry sectors.

Businesses willing to provide career opportunities for Veterans which could include upskilling and mentoring are being targeted with no business is too small or too big, to be a part of the program.

There are no age or gender restrictions within the Veterans Employment initiative. Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) chairman Peter Wilson said the issues will be work readiness and ability.

"That's usually the problem with a characteristic of society which is seen as different to what the mainstream employment is," Mr Wilson said.

"So, it's more an inhibition or fear from employers that veterans won't be work-ready and capable in the same way as they might see with someone who has a disability."

Former interim chair of RSL National, John King said defence people are some the most highly trained people in Australia. "They spend more money training their people to a higher level capacity than any other organisation in government," he added.

However, he does see a challenge translating defence jargon into plain English so employers can understand a Veteran's work skills. "They are training the defence people to use that English language rather than the military jargon," Mr King said. "The department is helping them write their CVs in terms of plain English for civilians to understand and explaining what they have to do for an interview."

Some companies are already onboard with the new program including AHRI which has employed a Veteran. It is also looking at including a Veteran's category in its annual Inclusion and Disability awards.

Adapting the workplace for a disability is not seen by Mr Wilson as being a big barrier to employing physically wounded Veterans. What he does see as a challenge for human resource personnel responsible for managing Veteran staff is relationship management and setting up a structure that will support the Veteran to be a well-functioning employee.

"Many of them come out physically and mentally fit for work," Mr Wilson said.

"It's just they just don't have the normal CV that you find for someone who has had a job with Coles or Woolworths; they can't establish a track record in business or government where someone else normally would. It's a question of equipping HR to see through what skills they have around management of projects, logistics and supply chains, which a lot of them have, or what they have in terms of team and leadership skills."

Mr King says some companies are prepared to interview a Veteran, but will still only appoint a person based on merit. "This gives them the opportunity to experience job interviews," he said. He says in the defence forces there are no job interviews before a person is transferred or posted, rather their skills and training are assessed, and everyone knows what is the next level of promotion. In the public and private, that doesn't easily translate. "It's a competitive world, much as it is in the military world. But in the military you understand what that competitiveness is. Once you come out of the military, you are at a disadvantage because you don't know what it is."

Mr Wilson says the template for employment of Veterans is there and so he believes it won't take a lot for companies to adjust their principles and practices to accommodate these employees.

USA companies are known for showing great respect for Veterans. The challenge will be to see if Australian companies will extend that respect within their workforces.

Veterans keen to pursue employment opportunities can go to to find participating business contacts.

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