With Memorial Day around the corner, we are reminded to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of those in the armed forces. It is also a time to give thanks to military veterans and those currently serving our country. I am sure there are several Snips readers who have served in the armed forces, may still be enrolled in the military, or have a friend or family member on active duty. With all of this in mind, it is disappointing to see some of the employment numbers for military veterans.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans was 8.3 percent in 2011. Statistically, this was close to the national average. But if you zero in a bit, the numbers are astonishing.

The BLS calls veterans that served in the military after September 2001 as Gulf War era II veterans. These veterans have had the hardest time finding work. And it gets worse the younger they are. Young male Gulf War era II veterans, ages 18-24, had a 29.1 percent unemployment rate in 2011. Male civilians in the same age range had a 17.6 percent unemployment rate during that year. Why the discrepancy? I wish I could answer that question.

It would seem to me that military veterans would be prime candidates for employment, especially in the sheet metal and HVAC industry. They are disciplined men and women who understand how to work as a team to carry out a plan and obtain a goal.

I’ve actually heard some employers say that they don’t want to hire military veterans because they need to retrain them. Some say the men and women are too rigid and need to learn how to better hone their social skills so they can work better with customers. This might be legitimate, but not all service veterans should be painted with that same brush.

I believe that the mechanical trades need to embrace military veterans. These are brave men and women who can learn how to carry out a mission. And the HVACR industry has quite a mission on its hands in the coming years. Going back to labor statistics, employment in the HVACR industry is expected to grow by 14 percent in the next ten years. With this in mind, businesses will need to hire new workers to keep up with demand. You may need to provide veterans with the technical training, but they are a labor force that is actively looking for work. They may be exactly what you are looking for.

Let us know your thoughts on hiring military veterans. Perhaps you have some veterans at your work. Tell us your story. And if you were in the military, tell us how you came in to the sheet metal and HVACR industry. We would love to hear from you. And thanks for your service!