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Message to American Business: Unemployed Veterans Deserve Call to Duty

They have made the U.S. military the most effective and respected in the world. As America Inc. works to recover and compete on a global scale, what better resource could we add to our workforce?
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As our veterans return from serving abroad to renew their lives as civilians, they must confront a new battle at home -- a country still facing persistent unemployment and sluggish economic growth. The heroes who put so much on the line to serve our country are now encountering the real danger of joining a generation of veterans whose rate of joblessness significantly exceeds the population as a whole.

According to the Employment Situation of Veterans' annual report which was released this week from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served post 9/11 attacks was 12.1 percent in 2011, compared with the jobless rate for all veterans of 8.3 percent. Those hit the hardest from that group are our young male veterans, ages 18-24, which have an unemployment rate of 29.1 percent, higher than the 17.6 percent jobless rate of their young male non-veteran counterparts.

While the Federal Government is trying its best, there is one school of thought that says it's not a public policy issue in the first place. It's private enterprise that can create jobs and fill them. It's business that can train people and make them productive tax-payers. And it's America Inc. that has the most to gain from tapping this extraordinary human resource. With so many new veterans -- tested in battle, but novices in the job market -- looking for work, it will take a broad-based effort by American business to meet the needs of these returning warriors. America Inc. must embrace the challenge.

Fortunately, circumstances favor a major push by American business to recruit and hire veterans. First, there is broad consensus that the men and women of the American military have done a stellar job over the past 10 years and are owed a tremendous debt of gratitude. That wasn't the case in previous homecomings, in particularly after Vietnam. Many of those veterans paid the price for an unpopular war. Today is different. No matter where people stand on the policies that led to the conflicts, Americans recognize the depth of sacrifice and patriotism of our men and women in uniform. Everyone agrees these heroes deserve every advantage we can give them. Second, the infrastructure to help is in place. There are dozens of non-profits focused on helping returning veterans tackle the job market. What those existing organizations need are more resources. That's where American business can make the difference. There are four steps every company in the United States can take:

(1) Commit -- Resolve as an enterprise to identify and take actions to change the employment landscape for veterans as a group.

(2) Affiliate -- Find an organization or two to support, in particular those groups that provide veterans with the job placement, education and training needed to launch successful post-military lives.

(3) Act -- When hiring, recruit veterans; if expansion isn't in the picture, direct corporate giving towards veterans groups that provide employment assistance. Consider undertaking training, internships, apprenticeships or mentoring programs aimed at vets.

(4) Network -- Approach customers, vendors and other businesses and ask them to take part. Put vet hiring on the radar screen of local chambers of commerce and trade associations.

Would such an approach work? Certainly, the worthy non-profits exist. When Activision assembled an advisory council to find suitable veterans' organizations, it came back with more than half a dozen. In the last two years, organizations supported by a non-profit that Activision funds -- The Call of Duty Endowment -- have helped 700 vets find jobs and provided training and mentorship to another 2,500. This week, General James L. Jones USMC (RET.), former U.S. National Security Advisor, joined as my Co-Chairman of the Endowment in order to help shine a brighter light on this issue and expand our efforts.

Individual companies can make a difference too. In the last year, Activision has hired 70 former service members. Our business partners and studios have hired another 300. The model is simple. The impact is real. Imagine if thousands of U.S. companies got involved. Our returning vets are a huge untapped asset for commerce.

Veterans have the skills employers want -- discipline, motivation, leadership and the ability to work on a team. They have made the U.S. military the most effective and respected in the world. As America Inc. works to recover and compete on a global scale, what better resource could we add to our workforce? Our troops are home. It's time for American business to replace the yellow ribbons with help wanted signs.

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