The state of veteran employment in the civilian market is dire, says Dan Goldenberg, the Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment. As we honor the brave Americans who have sacrificed so much to keep the rest of us safe, Entrepreneur spoke with Goldenberg to learn what Call of Duty is doing to assist those who are struggling in the job market and learned what gamers can do to help the real-life heroes who inspired the game.
What is the state of veterans’ employment in America?
Don’t believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers you see in the news. They are provided by the Census based on the following question, “Last week were you paid for work?” If you answer, “Yes,” you are counted as fully employed. If you drove for Uber 10 hours last week, mowed your neighbor’s lawn for $30, or drilled in Guard last weekend but didn’t have a civilian job, you’d be counted as fully employed. This metric is completely insensitive to the quality of employment and gives a gross misrepresentation of how veterans are doing in our economy.
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So what is the real number?
The combined underemployment and unemployment rate for veterans from Penn State’s research is more than 60%. Most strikingly, veterans are significantly more likely to be underemployed—working in jobs beneath their experience and skill set—than non-veterans. If a vet has meaningful employment, almost any other problem they face—housing, mental health, physical health, etc.—is more surmountable. Given the inflationary pressures on everyone today, the importance of a good-paying, high-quality job has never been more important. Veteran employment is critical for the economy and the failure to leverage this population is a lost opportunity for our society.
What effects are you seeing within active duty military?
Last year, the U.S. Army missed its recruiting goal by 15,000 active duty soldiers, while other services barely met their goals. A key solution to this recruiting crisis is to show potential recruits and the teachers and parents that influence their decision to join the military that there are great places for veterans to work after they complete their service and there is a great support system to ensure that happens. Fixing veteran employment is a national security imperative because our defense infrastructure is utterly dependent on the all-volunteer force. People will not join the military however if they think it leads to bad outcomes in the civilian job market.
Can you explain what the Call of Duty Endowment is?
The Call of Duty Endowment is a non-profit organization focused on placing veterans into high-quality, high-paying jobs. We do this by funding the most efficient and effective organizations that get unemployed and underemployed veterans back to work. We also raise awareness about issues veterans face when seeking employment and help employers understand the value veterans bring to their organizations.
The Endowment was co-founded by Activision Blizzard’s CEO, Bobby Kotick, who wanted to do more for veterans than just build monuments and name public parks in their honor. Because Activision Blizzard covers all of our operating costs, every cent we raise goes directly to putting veterans in jobs — it’s incredibly rare for a non-profit to have this advantage in its mission.
Our unique, accountability-based donation model – our Seal of Distinction Program – ensures we only support the highest-performing nonprofits that place vets in good jobs. The Endowment’s model is 13 times more cost-effective than the US Government’s efforts at placing veterans into high-quality jobs
What are the unique challenges female veterans face?
Our research shows that women are more than twice as likely to be unemployed six months after their service than male veterans. Women vets face unique challenges when transitioning to civilian life and seeking a full-time job. This includes challenges women in general face in the labor market, such as child care and wage discrimination. They also face challenges that are unique to female vets, like not self-identifying as vets (so they can get special help) and starting over, often from the bottom of the workforce ladder. Additionally, female vets are often reluctant to ask for help, as they’ve learned to be successful in the military, they must be resourceful and self-sufficient.
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Female vets can and do overcome these challenges when seeking civilian employment, but it’s much easier for them to succeed when they have support (i.e. from the grantees the Call of Duty Endowment supports). Through our grantees, women vets can find a community to ensure they have a support system. They also receive resume preparation help, interview practice, and salary negotiation training to ensure they’re ready for their job search and can mitigate the pay gap. For more information, we have our policy paper on women veterans available here.
What can veterans do today to help themselves find better employment?
Veterans are three times more likely to find meaningful employment if they do two things: First, reaching out for help with resume creation and editing. A resume needs to tell a story that a hiring manager understands, so translating military experience into civilian hiring speak is critical to getting in the door. Second, interview preparation is key to success. Once in the door for an interview, veterans need to be able to explain their military experience in a way that helps propel them above the other candidates. Veterans should never pay for this type of help. Through the Endowment, these services are provided by our grantees for free and can be found on our site.
Tell us about the upcoming fundraiser and how can people get involved to help.
One of the ways the Endowment raises funds for our mission is through our partnership with the Call of Duty gaming franchise. We launch in-game personalization packs that have been incredibly successful and resonate with the Call of Duty audience. We have raised over $29 million from our in-game packs. We are grateful for the entire Call of Duty community who supports our mission through these packs and are excited to announce a new pack that will be launching on November 10th.
The Call of Duty Endowment (C.O.D.E.) Warrior Pack will launch in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. It is $9.99 and includes in-game items such as a vehicle, weapons and other items to outfit your character. The pack was inspired by and created in close collaboration with Ben, a retired Navy SEAL. During his 16-year career, Ben received two Bronze Stars, both with Valor, the Purple Heart, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal. One hundred percent of Activision proceeds from the pack go directly into putting veterans into high-quality jobs. If you are a Call of Duty player, learn more and purchase your pack via the in-game store here.
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Why is veteran employment so important to Call of Duty?
The Endowment was founded to give back to the real-life people that inspire the game, Call of Duty, in a meaningful, impactful way. Employment support is the no.1 service our 200,000+ new veterans each year request, but it is supported by less than 1/10 of one percent of the US Government’s $300 billion veteran budget. Veterans are significantly more likely to be underemployed — working in jobs beneath their experience and skill set — than non-veterans. The Endowment knows that if a veteran has meaningful employment, almost any other problem they face — housing, mental health, physical health, etc. — is more surmountable, which is why we believe focusing on veterans’ employment is a great way to make a positive impact on veterans’ lives.