Harnessing Veteran Talent — Mike Smith

4 min readMar 19, 2024


Photo by ArtPhoto_studio on Freepik

As the demand for skilled workers continues to rise across various industries, one often-overlooked source of talent lies within the ranks of our military veterans. With their diverse experiences and honed skills acquired during their service, they possess a wealth of potential that remains largely untapped in the civilian job market. Recognizing the benefits of hiring individuals with military experience, particularly in the aerospace and defense sector, can lead to significant advantages for both organizations and the broader economy. In this ongoing war for talent, it would behoove employers to seek out talent that was prepared for war.

Military service equips individuals with technical training, the ability to perform under pressure, and strong interpersonal skills — attributes highly valued in industries requiring precision, teamwork, and innovation. Veterans’ experiences in roles such as pilots, flight engineers, machinists, electricians, and network specialists directly align with the needs of the private sector. Their familiarity with complex machinery, adherence to strict protocols, and problem-solving capabilities make them valuable assets in these high-consequence settings.

Furthermore, veterans often excel in middle- to high-wage occupations even if they have previously worked in lower-paying positions. Their hands-on experience and dedication to duty make them well-suited for roles that demand technical proficiency and a commitment to safety. Despite their potential, many face challenges in translating their experience into civilian employment opportunities, particularly those without a four-year degree. However, initiatives aimed at bridging this gap can yield substantial benefits, both for those seeking meaningful careers and for industries grappling with labor shortages.

The aerospace and defense industry is poised to benefit from the multitude of skills our veterans bring. With the global market projected to grow steadily in the coming years, fueled by increased demand for commercial aircraft and defense systems, the need for skilled personnel is more pressing than ever. By tapping into this pool, companies can address critical talent gaps and maintain their competitive edge.

Shaped by their experiences in the military, veterans operate under a mission first ethos which is very much aligned with the performance cultures of the leading companies in the industry. Their familiarity with rigorous safety protocols and adherence to strict regulations, and ability to perform effectively in demanding situations can enhance operational efficiency and contribute to an environment of excellence within organizations. In addition to their technical skills, veterans often possess intangible qualities that are highly sought after in the workplace, such as leadership, adaptability, and resilience all on full display in high pressure environments. These qualities are invaluable in industries where innovation and agility are essential for success.

Both the public and private sectors must take proactive steps to support veterans in their transition to civilian employment. By setting targets for veteran recruitment and creating pathways for skills translation, development and advancement, companies can tap into a diverse talent pool and foster a culture of inclusion and opportunity. Additionally, government initiatives such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) present opportunities to create jobs and address labor shortages. By reserving a portion of these jobs and providing support for skills development and training, policymakers can ensure that veterans are not only able to secure employment but also thrive in their new roles.

Leveraging the skills and experiences of veterans can yield significant benefits, especially for the aerospace and defense industry. By tapping into this diverse talent pool, companies can address critical talent shortages, foster a culture of excellence, and contribute to the broader economic prosperity. Moreover, hiring veterans is not just a sound business decision — it is a testament to the value of service and sacrifice, both on and off the battlefield.

About Mike Smith: a tested senior executive and U.S. Navy veteran with over 20 years of achieving organizational excellence in the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) industry, Mike is renowned for driving over $14 billion in new value creation. A mission-driven growth leader, he specializes in expanding A&D companies into new markets, optimizing margins, and fostering shared access to defense technology. Mike is dedicated to fostering collaborative success and propelling collective growth through purpose-driven leadership and ground-breaking strategic thinking.

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