Hiring Veterans for Public Service Positions

May 6, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Chair, Committee Members:

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today and for providing me the opportunity to share our thoughts and observations on priority hiring for Veterans. I am joined today by the Deputy Veterans Ombudsman – Sharon Squire.

I would like to begin by commending you for undertaking this important study. The Veterans Hiring Act (VHA) is an important piece of legislation; a piece of legislation that, when effectively implemented, has the potential to achieve a number of very practical, important objectives on behalf of Veterans and their families.

From the perspective of a Veteran, priority hiring represents a tremendous opportunity; an opportunity for Veterans –  with a wide range of skill and experience – to find purpose in their post-service lives and to continue to serve Canadians in a variety of meaningful ways. For medically released Veterans, priority hiring represents more than just an opportunity, it represents an obligation; our obligation to ensure that those who have served our country find purpose and achieve wellbeing in their post-service lives . The importance of delivering on this obligation to Veterans who have sacrificed in service to our nation is self-evident.

From the perspective of the Public Service, the VHA represents an opportunity to tap into the tremendous talent and experience of the roughly 10,000 or so Veterans, both Regular and Reserve, who release from the Canadian Armed Forces on an annual basis.  Not all of these Veterans will seek public sector opportunities, some will enter the private sector, some will seek opportunities in the not-for-profit sector and some will enter the public service at the provincial and municipal levels. Nevertheless, this talented group of Canadians is an incredibly valuable resource – a resource that Canada and Canadians have invested in considerably through education, training and professional development. The Federal Public Service should engage and leverage this talented group of Canadians as it seeks to attract and retain the best and brightest.

Lastly, the priority hiring presents an opportunity for the Federal Government and the Federal Public Service to demonstrate leadership in the area of Veteran employment. While there are a number of notable Veteran-friendly employers across the country, in both the public and private sectors, and a number of highly dedicated and effective organizations who advocate for and enable Veteran employment, the Federal Government, as the largest employer in Canada, is uniquely positioned to demonstrate leadership in this important area and should take the opportunity to do so.   

So how effective is the VHA? To be frank, at the strategic level, it is difficult to say. What we can say is that we know how many Veterans have applied for, and in some cases been appointed to, Public Service positions. For example, we know that since July 2015, approximately 42.8%, or 636, of the 1486 CAF members and Veterans that have applied with Statutory and Regulatory priority have been appointed. What we can’t say is whether or not this is a good news story or a bad news story. We can’t say because we do not have clearly defined outcomes (targets) to measure against nor do we have an accountability framework in place to assign clear responsibility for effective implementation of the VHA.   

On a more tactical level, there is clearly room for improvement. The following represent the most common complaints that we have received from Veterans. I suspect many, if not all, of these have been shared with the Committee so I will not address them individually but am happy to address during questions if desired:

  • The process is too complex and not Veteran-centric;
  • Decisions are not always made in a timely manner – attribution of service as an example;
  • Not all CAF members are aware of the priority hiring process – lack of education;
  • Not all CAF members are prepared to participate in the priority hiring process – lack of training/experience with hiring processes in general;
  • Not all CAF members are administratively prepared to participate in the priority hiring process early enough in the release process – see complexity and attribution of service points above;
  • There is a lack of support (concierge) for transitioning CAF members to effectively participate in the priority hiring process;
  • Some Veterans have reported a lack of transparency in the process including a lack of feedback in cases where the Veteran was unsuccessful in a competition – this undermines trust;
  • There are long-standing challenges in translating the skills, experience and knowledge gained in uniform into public service essential criteria;
  • Some HR managers do not understand the priority hiring process as it applies to Veterans;
  • Some HR managers have limited knowledge of CAF and/or an appreciation for what CAF members have to offer an employer;

In closing, I would like to reiterate our strong support for Veteran priority hiring and recognize its potential, if implemented effectively, to help Veterans and their families, particularly the ill and injured, find purpose and achieve wellbeing in their post-service lives. To maximize its effectiveness, we recommend the Committee consider endorsing the following recommendations:

  • Establish and assign clear outcomes (targets) to departments/organizations;
  • Establish clear accountabilities for achieving and reporting on outcomes; and
  • Ensure that all Veterans who wish to be considered for public sector employment opportunities post-release are fully able, from both a personal and administrative stand point, to actively participate upon notice of release.   

Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

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