Military skills still an under-appreciated asset in corporate Canada.

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Ex-soldiers may have experience like no other but it seems employers still aren’t sold on their unique skills set and some are even put off by it. Now, ex-military personnel are calling on corporate Canada to step up and support the nation’s servicemen and women in the best place they can – the workplace.

Former Air Force officer Adrian Travis now runs a successful consulting firm in Toronto and volunteers as a mentor for veterans who are struggling to reintegrate into civilian life. According to Travis, difficulties often arise in the world of work where, he says, employers often peg soldiers as overly-strict hotheads who wouldn’t suit a civilian office culture.

“A lot of people have images of you stomping on terrorists with your army boots on,” says Travis, but in reality many of the skills acquired in military training are actually highly transferable.

“A lot of situations in the military are live-or-die situations,” he continues, “so, if you need to get something done, these are the people who are going to take it to the hill. They are going to be very, very calm under stress and have a good ability to take a difficult task and break it down. These are the type of people you want on your team.”

Montreal-born Francis Laparé agrees. After spending 14 years in the military, including two tours in Afghanistan, he finally retired from active service in January 2012 only to find his wealth of world experience wasn’t worth much back in North America.

“I would hear, ‘You have an amazing resumé. You have had a crazy life experience and a lot on your shoulders at a young age. Thanks for your service.’ But that is pretty much where it would end,” reveals Laparé.

His experience is far from uncommon - a 2011 survey of 140,000 veterans by the Department of National Defence (DND) and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) found that 25 per cent of people released from service experienced difficulties finding their way into a new career.

But if employers can look beyond the specific descriptions of a particular role and consider the broader, foundational attributes that a veteran can bring then we’re not only supporting our servicemen and women but we’re exposing our companies to employees with unrivalled leadership skills and the ability to think outside the corporate box.

“At the end of the day, you are going to get an asset that has a very solid foundation for agility, management and innovation in your business,” Laparé said. “It’s just a matter of seeing that and not just focusing on what you are used to seeing in terms of a resumé description.
  • Mike on 2014-11-28 1:27:43 PM

    In my most recent career, I have had a number of ex-military and current cadets in my classes. Almost to a person, they are disciplined, respectful, hard-working, and focused on the goals of the project or course. They easily assume leadership roles in groups and have amazing skills at getting along with others. In presentations, they tend to "right to the point" and logical in their arguments. I can't imagine an employer not wanting these types of workers on their team.

  • Military Man on 2014-11-28 1:33:27 PM

    I served in Military as a Colonel. Commanded a Battalion of 1000 plus men, trained and led them to many a successful missions. Quit service two years back after 20 years of international experience at various levels of management & leadership. Now I am working in HR field for past 1.5 years. Applied for CHRP designation in Sep 2014 and got reply last week stating that committee did not find me fit as I lack at least 03 years of experience in HR. And this was despite submitting are relevant documents of experience.


    Do they really know what are the roles and responsibilities of a Colonel in army? We have trained and led from the front young men and women into war and motivated then to even die for the Country if need arises. And many young and bright youngsters did so.

    I wish no other veteran suffers such an insult. Should I question the credentials and qualifications of the committee members who processed my application..............

  • Canadian Veteran on 2014-11-29 3:08:12 PM

    As a medically released veteran trying to enter the civilian workforce, it is easy to become discouraged. My CV (translated into civilian terms) is 4 pages with 2 Masters Degrees earned while on active service. Yet I have difficulty in even gaining interviews.

    It has been my experience that the problem goes even deeper that civiians not understanding what we bring to the table with us, there are also preconceptions (some political, some courtesy of very bad hollywood productions) that block us. I have been told to my face that I would not "fit in, in a union environment" simply because of my service - forget the fact the union members often worked with and for me on technical jobs. I've also been told that my service in Afghanistan makes be unsuitable for any civilian role, being nothing more than an invader and child killer. Those are gleaned from my rare interviews.

    Then there is the HR stumbling block: HR personnel (or weenies as they are more appropriately refered to) simply haven't got any real world frame of reference to evaluate applications and resumes. If the resume is not a direct regurgitation of the job posting, it is screened out. We are told to tailor the resume to the position, but there have to be limits. The HR screeners need to either get some real world experience and knowlege or get out of the way and have the screening done by someone with a pair of clues to rub together.

    Retired CAF and veterans can make great contributions in civilian employment, but first you have to be willing to give them the chance.

  • Jeff D.G. on 2014-12-16 9:39:21 AM

    This comment maybe late but I'm submitting anyways. I agree with Mike's comments. All the positive attributes however are in character and not an easy sell on a CV. The entire human race are positive and proactive team players on their CV. I left the service at 20 years a Sergeant so I can comment on the NCO side of things. I think the service has excelled at providing it's NCO's with just enough training to employ it's personnel in their chosen fields (within the confines of service) however many times it falls short of the actual qual required on civvy street. This is not to say all trades fall short but I would bet that most do. Perhaps they fear a mass exodus as most civilian counterparts earn more. I think the least the service can do is ensure members who sacrifice time away from family for the country are 'properly qualified' to pursue/transition their current skill sets to the civilian sector. A legitimate and recognized skill set adds endless positives for the service as well.

  • Madeleine on 2014-12-18 1:20:16 PM

    My company has successfully recruited and hired many ex-military personnel in the United States. The US has military fairs and military specific groups which represent ex-military personnel looking for work. When I learned of this I started to look for something similar in Canada. Much to my disappointment, there isn't anything in place other than Helmets to Hardhats organization which didn't produce any candidates. I also contacted my locale Armed Forces recruitment offices but they couldn't direct me to an organization which helps ex-military find employment. I was very discouraged and I can only imagine how you all feel. Someone should really take pointers from the US and do something similar here in Canada.

  • Jim Vanderleeuw on 2015-01-09 10:55:06 AM

    I work as a Headhunter, have for many years. I am a former Aircrew officer, LONG ago. I agree with the Colonel's observations. Most Companies use Recruiting as the entry point in HR. These people are young, with very little real world experience, wouldn't know a Colonel from a Corporal. These days, many recruit using keywords on computer data bases. interpretation of skills is not a capability of theirs. I strongly doubt that situation will ever change.
    I have also tried to work with Government agencies (Military Employment Transition) who assist Retirees in job searches. These Consultants are strongly discouraged from working with Headhunters. how dumb is that! We Recruiters are the people with experience who know these professionals from the Military.
    I agree with Madeleine. The US is much better at honoring Military skillsets.

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