A Veterans Day Message from Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman
As our nation’s military has been called upon to combat challenges from Sunni militants to Ebola, we must not forget the fight that too many veterans encounter when they return home to secure employment. Blackstone and the Obama Administration’s Joining Forces initiative have been working to put the right set of support services in place and mobilize the private sector to make it easier to find and hire veterans. In April 2013, we committed to hire 50,000 American veterans across our portfolio of more than 80 companies over five years.
Like any large undertaking, individually connecting tens of thousands of veterans with job opportunities takes time. But this Veterans Day we must take the opportunity to assess our collective efforts as a nation and ask how we can do better. In 18 months, Blackstone has hired more than 18,000 veterans. The progress made by this and similar initiatives has started to make a difference in the way that companies view potential veteran hires. Just last year, the veteran unemployment rate was higher than the non-veteran rate – a year later, it’s almost a full percentage point lower. Slowly, the gap is being closed.
That’s good news, but we must continue and redouble our efforts. The Government Accountability Office estimates that, in the next five years, more than one million vets will make the transition into civilian life, so we’re going to need to work even harder. Even now, there remain nearly 500,000 veterans unemployed in this country. That figure is unacceptable. It’s worth noting too that the highest rate of unemployment is among those veterans whose periods of service encompass our most recent foreign interventions, beginning in September 2001. From this group alone, there are more than 180,000 unemployed veterans, or over one third of the total.
For so many reasons, hiring veterans is the type of decision we can all make without hesitation. Through our hiring initiative, we have heard time and again from executives who have seen how our veteran hires’ unique experiences make them paragons of responsibility and drive, improving the businesses where they work in small but tangible ways each day. It’s clear that whatever the mission, these men and women are of the highest caliber and character. That’s why there’s no excuse not to make this investment in the men and women who have served our country. They have proven their value – and their immense potential – before they walk in the door.
As a society, we cannot compromise on providing an honorable and dignified return to civilian life for veterans. These are driven, motivated, and well-trained people who lead by example and bring immense strength and diverse skills to any organization lucky enough to employ them. We and the wider business community have the unique opportunity to do right and follow through on our shared responsibility to honor the service of those who too often find that the doors of opportunity are not open to them in the civilian world. Whatever it takes, they must be able to secure good work to put food on the table and provide for their and their families’ futures.