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Veteran employment must remain a clear focus for Australian Industry

APAC’s Ian Hyde explains the importance of a key issue.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking at an event organized by Working Spirit, who are working to advance the cause of returning servicemen to the workplace.

It’s the third time I’ve spoken at one of these events and on both occasions I’ve found myself genuinely conflicted. On the one hand, these events are a reminder of how organizations like Working Spirit, driven by a simple desire to make a difference and united by a clear purpose, are making a genuine impact on the lives of the men and women who are returning to the workforce after active service. On the other hand, it’s a reminder of how much work is still to be done in this area, and how Australia is widely underperforming in its responsibility to such an important group of people.

I expect many of you will have seen recent employment figures from the ABS that suggest a job market that is beating all expectation. 44,000 jobs were added in August against a general expectation of 15,000. Overall, unemployment decreased to 5.3%.

For our veterans, the picture remains very different. Veteran unemployment hovers around 30%, nearly six times the national civilian average. There are many contributing issues. Some are understandable and are linked to issues associated with this kind of service, and the strains that high stress environments bring. But some of these issues are much harder to swallow. Because the truth is that when all is said and done, Australia’s private sector appears to view veterans as a risk they are not willing to take. This is a  deeply frustrating irony for veterans who have risked everything for the same country.

Veterans themselves often seem quietly confused by the difficulty they face. They leave the forces with the reasonable assumption that they will be a good catch for employers. They are told that the discipline and teamwork they have proven through their service, along with the hard work and commitment that comes with it, will make them immediately appealing to hiring companies.

The statistics suggest this is far from the reality, and while there are plenty of explanations, there are no legitimate excuses. The private sector must change its collective attitude to this community and take responsibility for breaking through some of the false assumptions that are made about the ex-military mindset.

There is a misconception that the military fosters blind following of orders, and that this translates to a lack of initiative in the private sector, but this could not be further from the truth. The modern military encourages independent problem solving and resourcefulness – which are key to effective task management, whatever the level of the role in question.

In our experience, introducing ex-military employees can have a transformational effect on working culture in a team. In a recent example, we saw turnover at an offshore rig drop dramatically, and productivity increase significantly through an injection of veterans who bring this culture of commitment and hard work with them. There are wins to be had for all of us if we embrace the opportunity.

The stakes could not be higher. One in twenty of this country’s homeless are veterans. It’s a stunning statistic and it is directly linked to the imbalance in employment opportunities.

That’s why events like Working Spirit’s Military-to-Civilian Work Summits are so important. Sharing ideas and highlighting the extent of the issue is where solutions will ultimately be seeded.

It’s up to us. Everyone involved in hiring and employment in any way can take responsibility for moving the needle on the issue. From commercial to corporate recruiters, to HR and hiring managers, particularly in the engineering space where transferable skills abound, the key to solving one of the country’s longest standing and most important problems lies with us.


Ian Hyde is the President of Competentia, a Perth based recruiting specialist.

More details about Working Spirit and its objectives at



Ian Hyde

Ian Hyde

President - APAC

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Veteran unemployment hovers around 30%, nearly six times the national civilian average.


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