The Policy Insights Forum (PIF) was pleased to welcome Lieutenant-General (Ret'd) Christine Whitecross; Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret'd) Eleanor Taylor; Former Naval Warfare Officer Kiera Antaya, now representing Coding for Veterans; and Steve Vincic, President and Managing Partner of The Kavin Group and sponsor of this event, on Wednesday, June 30,2021. The event was hosted and moderated by Vice-Admiral (Ret'd) Mark Norman, Senior Defence Strategist at Samuel Associates. The topic of this PIF event was “Veterans’ Transition in the Digital Age.”
On this eve of Canada Day, turning the conversation to the transition of Canada’s veterans in today’s digital age is very timely. Twenty-first century veterans are not the same as those of the Great War of 1914 since the global context has changed, as have their prospects. During the course of the discussion, valuable insights were surfaced regarding the spectrum and backgrounds of veterans’ writ large.
The transition from the military to civilian lifestyle is “a very significant life event”, in the words of LtGen Whitecross, and the impact on the people who transition is underestimated. It is “a tunnel” that veterans go through, and it takes time, LtCol Taylor asserted. Veterans may not know precisely what they want to do after leaving the service. Notwithstanding, they may seek a greater degree of autonomy and flexibility during this important transitory period. It is understood many people would like to assist in supporting veterans’ transitions, and this may be viewed through a series of prisms. The work veterans do after leaving uniform service needs to be aligned with their respective sense of greater purpose. It is important to define and communicate the expectations of both the veterans and their future career goals and employers. It was noted that veterans do not want to be handled but appreciated for their respective service and experience. It would be helpful to garner insight into what the military service is all about and what experiences can be acquired to prepare veterans for a future civilian career and lifestyle.
There are options that are available to facilitate veterans’ transition. LtCol Taylor shared that she found having people call her to make sure she knew she was eligible for programs and understood her benefits. Informal mentoring to explore the options available to her was very advantageous and she strongly emphasized this initiative should be promulgated and be made more accessible to all Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members. LtGen Whitecross also added that work needs to be done concerning Human Resources processes. They should include facilitating the advertising and hiring of veterans and focus more on the training and experiences they have gathered rather than just the academic achievements. Many veterans are employed but are in some cases are underutilized. Kiera Antaya added that many opportunities exist for veterans, in particular, there are many unfulfilled technical jobs that could be important second career opportunities for CAF veterans.
Veterans bring to the civilian community a spectrum of skill sets that can be at times difficult, if not challenging to translate into what would be viewed as a classical curriculum vitae. There are a number of advantages of employing veterans. They have a sense of responsibility and are equipped to employ initiative when given the opportunity. These characteristics facilitate the individual to transition seamlessly from one scenario to another. Moreover, many military people have the ability to communicate effectively throughout the managerial chain. It was noted that veterans bring to the table a number of soft skills that they have accumulated over time, such as a fine sense of situational awareness and a sense of focusing on the task at hand. Kiera Antaya noted that these skills have served her well in her second career outside the CAF. Steve Vincic, as President and Managing Partner of The Kavin Group, brought a unique employer’s perspective noting that veterans have operated in avery structured and disciplined environment. Notwithstanding, he promoted that these individuals have a good foundation of core skill sets can easily bere-fitted to be employed into the digital economy. What is paramount in the staffing business for him is that veterans using his services are motivated and patient to seek out a suitable second career that aligns with their experience, training, and goals.