More than five years after President Barack Obama signed an executive order requiring agencies to focus their attention on hiring veterans, the administration has some good news to mark Veterans Day.
Agencies hired more veterans in fiscal 2015 than in the past five years, according to the latest report on veterans hiring from the Office of Personnel Management.
Government brought on 6,000 more veterans in 2015 compared to the previous year, as agencies hired 71,867 new veterans last year. New veteran hires made up 32.5 percent of all federal hiring in 2015.
“I’m extremely proud to announce the successes of the President’s Veterans Employment Initiative in fiscal 2015, while recognizing there is still work to be done,” Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said in a message announcing the report.
Agencies in fact hired fewer veterans in 2014, — 59,992 of them — but veterans hiring made up a higher percentage, 33.2 percent, of all federal new hires in total. That’s likely due to the fact that agencies hired fewer people in 2014 altogether — 180,542 new employees compared to 221,166 new hires in 2015.
Though new figures on veterans hiring are certainly optimistic, agencies continue to struggle with retaining their new veteran hires.
Retention rates for veterans are lower than those for non-veterans at nearly every major agency. Only NASA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have higher retention rates for veterans compared to their non-veteran employees.
In many cases, retention rates varied as much as 10 percent at some agencies.
Improving retention rates has been a particular focus point for OPM, Cobert said. The Council on Veterans Employment rates agencies on their performance on several key veterans hiring metrics. The council rated 79 percent of agencies as “effective” or above on veteran retention in 2015.
Agencies used veterans preference to made 29.2 percent of its new hires, down slightly from the previous year’s numbers. Agencies used veterans preference 29.7 percent of the time.
Veterans with disabilities made up about 14 percent of all new hires to the federal workforce in 2015.
Unsurprisingly, the Defense Department and departments of Army, Navy and Air Force have the highest percentage of veterans. Veterans made up 57 percent of the Air Force workforce, the highest of any other large agency.
The Veterans Affairs Department also employed a large number of veterans, which made up nearly 33 percent of the VA workforce in 2015. The Transportation Department, however, bested VA’s total. Nearly 37 percent of Transportation’s workforce were veterans in 2015.
The Health and the Human Services Department employed the fewest number of veterans, as veterans made up about 7 percent of the HHS workforce.
The Defense agencies hired the most new veterans in 2015, but other agencies made big strides as well. About 43 percent of all new hires at the Transportation Department last year were veterans. The Energy Department and Social Security Administration also posted big numbers, as veterans made up nearly 35 percent and 38 percent of all new hires, respectively.
Most veterans, 44 percent of them, work in administrative positions in the federal workforce. About 16.6 percent work in technical jobs, while 14.3 percent hold blue-collar positions with their agencies.
Veterans hiring in the federal workforce has been on the rise since 2009, when Obama signed an executive order establishing the Veterans Employment Initiative and the Council on Veterans Employment to study the topic. The goal of the program was to help agencies utilize veterans’ talents and create a hiring program that the private sector would want to emulate.