Employers reluctant to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars training employees on leadership, complex decision-making, risk management, teamwork and resiliency may want to consider a lesser-known but appealing option: Hire a reservist.
Employers can now find a worker with experience in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) reserves with the launch of a government-subsidized, paid internship program offered by Career Edge, an organization that connects employers with interns.
The Toronto-based organization will receive close to $3 million from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to launch the pilot program.
The funding will provide wage subsidies to employers hiring reservists for internships who meet certain basic conditions: they are between 19 and 30 years of age, they have a minimum of a high school diploma and they have had no previous internships through Career Edge.
“This is all about doing two things: Helping Canadian Armed Forces reservists launch their careers with meaningful employment and great experience, and employers getting experienced, phenomenal talent,” said Kelly McDougald, board chair of Career Edge.
Youth employment opportunities
It’s programs like this one that help develop strong leaders who drive organizations forward, said Don Ludlow, Toronto-based president of Treble Victor and vice-president of commercial banking at RBC, which sponsored the launch of the program.
“I am where I am today at RBC for two reasons. First of all, because some great folks at RBC took the time to get to know me and hear a bit about my military background… someone gave me a change to tell my story,” he said, and secondly, because of a career transition program not unlike this one.
The first objective of the program is to place 225 reservists in civilian roles over the next three years, said Ludlow. The program will roll out in the Greater Toronto Area, Halifax, Montreal and Winnipeg.
“The average length of an internship will be about six months, and we’re aiming for about a 40 per cent success rate in terms of getting hired by the employer that sponsors (the intern),” said Ludlow.
“This program gives employers a great opportunity to connect with reservists, and get funding in the form of a wage subsidy.”
Like many in their early 20s, young reservists often want to make a career change, said Patrick Kelly, director of reserves with the Canadian Armed Forces in Ottawa.
“Sometimes, (what they studied) in school isn’t where they need to go with their career, or the options aren’t there for them,” he said, and the internship program is an excellent way to leverage their military training in a civilian workplace.
Many reservists already have impressive educational backgrounds, said Jay Yakabowich, vice-president of marketing and business development at Career Edge.
“If you look at the makeup of our Canadian Armed Forces reservists and average it out, roughly 50 per cent of them have a university degree; many of them have more than that. Twenty-five per cent of the remainder have some university or college, and the other 25 per cent — the balance — have a minimum of a high school diploma,” he said.
But the military training and experience they receive is also invaluable — the challenge is translating that experience in a way civilian employers can understand.
That’s an issue Marcus Yaeger, reservist and consultant for CAF programs at Career Edge, has navigated firsthand.
“I didn’t have a lot of recognizable corporate experience on my resumé that I could sort of leverage to find a job. But, at the same time, at the age of 21, I had experience being a part of and leading small teams; I had experience with making complex decisions in high-stress environments with deployment experience to Afghanistan, making decisions with ambiguous information or limited information,” he said.
“So for talent acquisition managers and hiring managers I would say, ‘When you’re looking at military resumés, it’s important to look not only at the content but also the context.’”
Benefits for employers
So what exactly are the benefits to the employer?
“The program enables employers to increase their diversity and enhance the existing military support programs that they have in place. And I think also, it gives people out there in the business world a bit of access to what is really a closed shop — an organization that can sometimes be a bit difficult to access,” said Ludlow.
The military delivers a plethora of valuable training that’s highly transferable to other employment opportunities, according to Kelly.
“We deliver leadership training, teamwork, resiliency, they’re physically fit, they’re mentally agile, they understand complex problems and they’ve dealt with great degrees of difficulty. In many cases… a number of reservists (have the opportunity) to work their way around the world on different missions,” he said.
“Just imagine you, as an employer, get a 23-year-old person who’s been somewhere complex, they’ve had hard jobs, they’ve already learned to be a junior leader, and they bring those skills to your workplace.”
Reservists come with an impressive slate of skills and abilities, said Ludlow.
“They come with tremendous skills and experiences, including leadership, personnel management, mentorship, coaching, the ability to analyze complex situations, decisiveness, loyalty, discipline, accountability and I think, most of all, the ability and the desire to work on high-performing teams,” he said.
“So these are absolutely the kind of people that nowadays organizations seek to have become part of their teams.”
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