May 27, 2013
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden want American companies to hire more veterans, and I think startups are in the right (economic) position to contribute to that hiring.
“These men and women are some of the highest-skilled, best-trained, hardest-working people in this country. They are medics and engineers, drivers and welders, computer technicians and machinists. They are eager to work and determined to keep on serving this country. All they need is a chance.”
In August of 2011, President Obama challenged the private sector to train 100,000 veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. For the past two years, the First Lady and Dr. Biden have worked on Joining Forces, a campaign focused on supporting American veterans and military families. At the end of last month, the duo urged businesses to join companies like The Blackstone Group in committing to hire or train veterans over the next five years.
The US unemployment rate has seen some improvement this year, yet data released last month from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that while the unemployment rate for nonveterans is at 7.9 percent, 9.4 percent of vets remain unemployed. For young veterans (aged 18-24), that number is even higher, at a rate averaging 20.4 percent in 2012 (well above five percent more than the average non-veterans in the same age range).
I think there is no better time than now for tech startups to help reduce the veteran unemployment rate. I’m not going to provide you with reasons why you should be hiring veterans because there are many out there far more capable of making that argument. Economically, startups are in the right position to be making these hires:
- The tech industry continues to grow. Overall industry growth increased by 1.1 percent in 2012, slightly higher than the rest of the private sector.
- According to a recent Silicon Valley Bank Startup Report, 87 percent of US-based startups are hiring this year, the highest percentage in the last four years.
- Work opportunity tax credits have been extended until the end of this year, providing employers with tax credits for employing veterans. Among these is the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which provides an incentive of up to $5,600 for firms to hire long-term unemployed vets.
- Although startup funding hasn’t seen huge improvements since the passing of the JOBS Act last year, the House passed a measure this week giving the SEC an October 31 deadline to adopt the remaining portions of the JOBS Act.
Within the larger tech community, players like Microsoft and Code for America have partnered with Joining Forces to create programs that help vets and their spouses to transition into civilian employment. And startups should do their part, too.
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