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Walmart promises to hire vets: What are the challenges?

The major retailer has pledged to hire 100,000 veterans, but even with such promises, the employment of returning military poses challenges.

Last month, the unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was 10.8 percent. That's three full percentage points above the national average.

A major retailer said today it wants to help do something about that. In fact, the major retailer said that. Walmart says it is going to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years -- any veteran who wants a job, in fact.

Veteran advocates say the problem is a lot of service members returning home can't get jobs. And while a lot of employers say they want to hire veterans, the whole process is rife with challenges, according to Kurt Ronn, president of Atlanta-based recruiting firm HRworks.

"If I am hiring an operations manager for a big box store, as a hiring manager, I probably want someone with seven to 10 years experience as an operations manager for a big box store," says Ronn. "You really have to probably have been a vet with a desire to hire a vet to hire the [veteran]."

Plus, there are a lot of returning servicemen and women who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, says Ronn. And there is a lack of understanding among hiring managers about a veteran's skills. 

It takes a huge commitment by companies to hire veterans, and while Ronn says the Walmart promise is good, it is just a drop in the bucket.

"We have been talking about veteran employment for years," says Ronn. "If you are going to hire 100,000 people are you going to go the transition offices, talk to the transition people? How are you going to get to these people so there really is a seeded pool...so there is a question of making it a priority."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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I have a PhD with 25 years' experience in my chosen profession and have supervised as many as 7 professionals, responsible for up to 950 employees. I speak 2 foreign languages. My unemployment rate has been 100% for more than 4 years. I voluntarily entered the profession and was involuntarily dismissed for reasons unrelated to my performance. Veterans have dubious skills and work with the disability Dan Eberhart elaborates clearly on this page. They voluntarily entered their profession and are voluntarily leaving. I haven't heard about Walmart offering me a management position.

@RichardNYC - Jan 16, 2013- If you want a job at Wal-mart, go fu@*ing get one you lazy piece of sh*#. Like you would even take that offer!? WHY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE ENTITLED TO SOMETHING EXTENDED TO THE MEN AND WOMEN FIGHTING FOR YOUR FREEDOM AND SAFETY. Also, dont act naive, they are not offering management positions to veterans, they are offering a paycheck and a fresh start. Most KIDS that join the military have families that are close to poverty, and join right out of high school and have no experience doing anything and would love to have a flexible job that they can work while they go to college. Also, you don't have the right to make a case on veterans "voluntarily leaving", some men and women leave the military to go to school, and some leave because they have HAD ENOUGH and most leave HONORABLY. It works that way because if you are leading a platoon into COMBAT or even to the rifle range, you do not want someone there that doesnt have their heart and mind on board and ready to go. I would have loved to see you try to make it through BASIC TRAINING when you were a young chap. Obviously you have no idea what the military is like or about; obviously you don't care because you are not a true patriot; and obviously you are a scumbag American that thinks you are entitled to everything. Even if you are not a supporter of the Department of Defense and/or the wars, stop and think about the heartache and pain that these veterans go through and that their parents, wives and children go through when daddy/mommy/son/daughter has to leave for 7 to 14 months, multiple times, and may not come back (while you sat in your comfy chair staring at your PhD on the wall.) I am an 8 year veteran, "involuntarily dismissed for reasons unrelated to my performance", and I appreciate this companies support of our transitioning military, y'know...so they dont go from saving YOUR life, to living on the streets, watching you drive to the unemployment office in your $65,000 Cadillac.

Between the Viet Nam and Iraq/Afghanistan wars, I did a lot of interviewing and hiring at all corporate levels. Military experience was not always taken as an absolute indicator for a successful candidate at management level. The reasons concerned the military hierarchy and tight adherence to military practices and policy. So, as hiring managers, we needed to ask, ' how would this person do in a looser environment with a wider array of employees. That did not always handicap a candidate but it helped to have other experiences to reinforce the person's ability to manage and lead. When I started in Human Resources, I was trained and advised to consider this factor. By the time I became the manager of an operations department, I accepted this as SOP.

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