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John Lowry
John Lowry, left, is Assistant Secretary for the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service

Q&A with John Lowry, Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and Training

A research team led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chez Veterans Center and School of Labor and Employment Relations has completed a comprehensive, national study on Veteran employment with the post 9/11 generation. A data reveal event on Nov. 16 will present a snapshot of Veterans in the labor market, an overview of Veteran job satisfaction, best practices for Veteran career fairs, and factors influencing Veteran Employment.

Leading up to the event, U.S. Dept. of Labor Assistant Secretary for the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) John Lowry answered some questions about Veteran Employment.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges veterans face when they enter the workforce after service?

A: Each year nearly 200,000 service members take off their uniforms and transition into the civilian workforce. This means we have 200,000 opportunities to “get the transition right” or  “get the transition wrong.” When a Transitioning Service Members starts his or her civilian career with a clear trajectory and hits that transition with a running start, the positive benefits compound over time. Conversely, a poor transition produces consequences that will also be long-lasting. At the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, our vision is for all veterans to reach their full potential in the workplace. It’s not good enough just to help them find jobs, we aim to help them find jobs that will challenge them and put them in a position to make the biggest impact.

All of this requires Transitioning Service Members to have an idea of what sort of career path they want to pursue when exiting active duty. Too often this is not the case. To the extent that we can help those soon-to-be veterans answer that all-important question: “What do I want to do when I get out?,” we’ll be in a better position to help people take a running start at their transition.

Q: Are there any recently-launched or upcoming projects at the Department of Labor that you’d like to share?

A: I’d like to update you on our new initiatives in support of the Transition Assistance Program. These initiatives are above and beyond the employment workshops we already provide to nearly 200,000 transitioning service members (TSM) annually at more than 200 military installations worldwide. Many of which this year have either been virtual workshops or delivered via a virtual/brick and mortar hybrid.

Enabling a seamless transition from military service to civilian life is essential for veterans to reach their full potential in the workforce. The Department is rolling out an Employment Navigator and Partnership Pilot to provide one-on-one, concierge service that will help transitioning service members identify their civilian career aspirations and connect them to the best partners or resources to begin that journey while they are still in uniform. It is critical that we proactively provide the military community with the resources necessary to get the transition right in order to reap the benefits of these high quality American workers while avoiding the tragic consequences of flawed transitions.

We do not want to duplicate the many employment services provided by our partners. Instead we want to connect TSMs to the programs and services which make the most sense to help each particular TSM realize his or her ambitions. We will begin the Employment Navigator and Partnership Pilot in April 2021 at 13 installations.

VETS also recently developed a transition curriculum specific to military spouses which we have named Transition Employment Assistance for Military Spouses, aka TEAMS. VETS has developed four TEAMS courses to address the employment-related challenges faced by military spouses, and they will be presented in both virtual and in-person classroom settings. Next year, we will develop a transition curriculum that is specific to the needs of wounded warriors.

As mentioned earlier, our other pilot is specific to those who are interested in pursuing Apprenticeships. We currently have Apprenticeship Placement Counselors (APCs) at eight installations (Bragg, Bliss, Miramar, Cherry Point, Norfolk, San Diego, Travis and Nellis). These APCs work individually with TSMs to help place them in apprenticeships based upon their desired occupation and post-separation location.

I’m also very excited about our HIRE Vets Medallion Program. This is the only federal award that recognizes employers who hire, retain and support veterans. On Nov. 10, DOL recognized honored 675 HIRE Vets Medallion recipients for 2020. Not only is the HIRE Vets Medallion program great in helping veterans find the right employers, but it gives the employer a competitive advantage in the war for top talent because the Medallion Award serves as a beacon for veterans looking for companies where they’ll thrive.

I encourage employers to include non-profits to apply for this award for 2021. Application period opens on January 31, 2021. Go to for more info.

Q: What is the value of a veteran to an organization?

Hiring veterans is a smart business decision. Veterans comprise one of the most capable and resilient talent pools in the nation. Before military training even begins, our all-volunteer force is filled with high-quality recruits. Approximately 67 percent of American high school graduates enroll in college while only 29 percent even meet the standards for entry into military service. Indeed, many Americans are unaware that it’s statistically harder to get into the military than into most undergraduate institutions.

During their years of military service, veterans learn to work effectively in diverse teams while accomplishing difficult missions under stressful conditions. They gain valuable hard and soft skills in a culture that encourages initiative, believes in accountability and develops some of the finest leaders in the world. This is why veterans bring significant value to the organizations they choose to serve.

Generations of American veterans have credited the lessons of military service for their ability to help companies thrive. It is no surprise that a LinkedIn analysis recently found that “veterans are more likely to be promoted earlier than nonveterans.” Again and again, veterans demonstrate their capacity for delivering results and their readiness to assume increased responsibilities.

Studies indicate that it is a good business decision to hire veterans because the success that veterans enjoy in their careers correlate with the success of the companies they serve. Veterans routinely outperform their non-veteran peers in the workforce. A 2019 Pew Research Study found that military veterans and their families have had higher standards of living than non-veterans over the past 40 years. We also see veteran unemployment rates consistently lower than the non-veteran cohort and COVID has exacerbated this trend, telling me that employers value their veterans and want to hold onto them particularly during these challenging times.

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