In FY2014, the percentage of veteran new hires within the federal government hit an all-time high of 33.2 percent. However, a report released last month shows that while agencies are getting better at hiring veterans, they aren’t necessarily keeping them.
For the first time, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management included a side-by-side comparison of retention rates between veterans and non-veterans for each agency in their annual report.
Not surprisingly, the departments of Defense and State both retained a higher percentage of veteran new hires than non-veterans. NASA also did well by retaining 88.4 percent of its veteran new hires versus 79 percent of non-veterans.
The Department of Education nearly broke even and retained about 79 percent of all new hires. The departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Transportation also had similar retention rates between both sets of employees.
Trouble Attracting Veterans to Non-Defense Government Jobs
However, some agencies are struggling with veteran retention rates. The Small Business Administration had a retention rate of 87.5 percent for non-veterans, but only 61.5 percent for veterans. Likewise, the Department of Commerce retained 81.9 percent of non-veterans, but only 68.2 percent of its veteran new hires.
In an interview with Federal News Radio, OPM Director of Veterans Services Hakeem Basheerud-Deen talked about how each agency has its own culture, mission and required skill sets. The difference between agencies can be difficult to explain.
“We’ve been trying to educate veterans that there is more to government than just the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs,” he said.
The varied cultures between the agencies may in fact be a reason veterans struggle to find their place. After years of military service, it’s probably much easier to make the leap to a civilian position with the DoD as opposed to a civilian job with the Social Security Administration. But for those willing to take a chance, there are definite advantages behind their veteran status.
“I’d like to think vets are bringing a skill set that is competitive for federal jobs,” said Basheerud-Deen. “When we look at the money spent on training of men and women in uniform, it’s natural that the federal government try to get a return on their investment by bringing veterans on that meet their mission-critical needs.”
Going forward, FY2014 will be used as a benchmark for retention rates and agencies will be rated at how well they close the gap at the end of the year. Specific plans on how to improve retention rates have not been shared. However, there are some ways for veterans to increase their chances of finding the right agency for them. Consider these tips from U.S. News & World Report about successfully transitioning to a second career.
First, get an insider’s perspective of unfamiliar agencies. Consider interning or job shadowing someone who works there. Once you know more about the agency, ask yourself if it’s a good fit for you.
“The most important thing is to talk to people in that career,” says Jean Wilczynski, a financial advisor with Exencial Wealth Advisors. “Do some volunteer work. See if it’s what you think it is.
Next, inventory your skills. Different agencies require different skill sets so do some homework. It could be as easy as a couple of refresher courses or as time consuming as an advanced degree. This is especially important for those who desire to work in the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology – or STEM – fields.
Finally, be realistic about salary requirements. Many times, service members underestimate their salary needs because they fail to consider the military perks of housing allowances, medical benefits and things like hazardous duty pay. Use a salary calculator to determine the minimum salary requirements you need to maintain your standard of living.
Civil service is a great option for service members separating from the military and worth considering while job hunting. And if both the individuals and the agencies are working toward successful employee integration, it’s likely the retention rates for veterans will improve.