When Jason Hsiung returned from Afghanistan last summer, he decided to leave his military life and settle with his girlfriend in Toronto.
But finding a civilian job was a struggle. Despite holding an aerospace engineering degree and serving as an infantry lieutenant in Canada’s last combat tour in Kandahar, prospective employers weren’t calling Mr. Hsiung back.
It wasn’t until he re-jigged his resume to remove the military jargon and sell his skills higher up that he finally found work a few weeks ago, as a process analyst at Brookfield Global Relocation Services.
And the things he learned as a soldier transfer easily to his new job: “You can make difficult decisions under duress, you can manage people, you can inspire your subordinates,” says the 26-year-old.
A new program launched Friday aims to assist a lot more former soldiers like Mr. Hsiung.
Run by the Canada Company, a charitable group that helps out soldiers and their families, the Military Employment Transition Program gives veterans a series of resources to help them find civilian work, and connects companies with former military personnel looking for jobs.
“We can talk about how to translate military skills to civilian qualifications,” said Canada Company founder Blake Goldring at a press conference.
The key – as in Mr. Hsiung’s case – is both teaching ex-soldiers how to sell their military skills and showing companies what veterans have to offer.
General Walter Natynczyk, the chief of Canada’s defence staff, attended the announcement. He recounted an anecdote about a recent natural disaster in Canada – he would not say which one – in which troops were called in to help. Standing next to a bridge that had been knocked out, he listened as politicians and civilian engineers fretted that it would take two months to repair the span. Then, he said, a combat engineer stepped forward.
“He said, ’Sir, if you and the other sirs get out of the way, we can have the job done by midnight,’” General Natynczyk recounted.
“At some point in a soldier, sailor, airman or airwoman’s life, they are ready to move on,” he said. “I want to make sure that we do not leave our veterans behind.”
There are already 40 firms signed up to work with Canada Company – they range from Coca-Cola to Sobeys to various financial organizations and a police force – and the charity hopes to attract more.
Veterans say the service is certainly needed.
“There’s a misconception in the military that when you leave, you’ll be able to step out and the world is your oyster. But it’s not like that,” said Chad Hauser, 29, who retired from the army as a captain after a stint in Afghanistan.
Mr. Hauser spent months networking and knocking on doors before making a connection through Treble Victor, another organization for members of the military, that helped him land a job at Manor Park Capital Advisors.
“A lot of it is the difficulty in communicating your skill-set,” said Lieutenant Roland Llewellyn-Thomas, 23, an Afghan veteran who is spending his summer as a researcher at Caldwell Investment Management Ltd. “Civilians don’t necessarily understand what you bring to the table.”
And even the most primary of military skills – discipline – makes a former soldier an excellent hire.
“One thing the military teaches you is if you need to be somewhere at a certain time, dressed a certain way, you have to be there. The military doesn’t accept excuses,” he said. “You learn dependability and team work.”