Review of the Provision of Job Placement Assistance and Related Employment Services to Members of the Reserve Components
Mar 24, 2016
Reserve component members face several employment challenges. For instance, they may face career disruptions as they repeatedly transition between their military and civilian careers, or they may not meet the definition of an eligible veteran, which would prevent them from qualifying for many federal employment programs. Young reserve component members may be especially vulnerable to employment challenges. In 2012, when the overall unemployment rate was about 8 percent, it was 11 percent for reserve component members and 18 percent for junior reserve component members (ranks E-1 to E-4).
In light of these challenges, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act required "a review of the feasibility of improving the efforts of the Department of Defense to provide job placement assistance and related employment services directly to members in the National Guard and Reserves." The Office of the Secretary of Defense asked RAND to conduct this congressionally mandated study.
RAND researchers reviewed relevant previous research, conducted informational discussions with employment program managers, and identified ways to improve Department of Defense (DoD) efforts to provide job placement and related employment services for reserve component members. The researchers focused on two key sets of questions. First, do all members of the reserve components have access to employment assistance? Are some receiving more assistance than others? Are there gaps or areas of duplication? Second, are there ways that employment programs can be streamlined or expanded to better serve reserve component members' needs? This brief summarizes the researchers' findings and recommendations.
The researchers identified 40 federal programs, resources, and offices providing job placement assistance to reserve component members. The bulk of these are provided by DoD, the Department of Labor (DoL), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Categories of services include résumé or interview preparation; job search and placement; job and career planning; skills assessment and certification; job fairs; assistance with legal issues; assistance with entrepreneurship; internships, assistance, and training; financial assistance; and access to information and tools. About half of the programs are high touch, providing extended follow-on services that are typically personalized to meet individual needs. The remaining programs are low touch, providing one-time services for a short period of time.
Following a review of previous research on reserve component employment challenges and a review of common employment services provided to the general public, the researchers did not find gaps in services in the current portfolio of federal programs that provide job placement assistance to reserve component members. Nevertheless, the researchers found that it is difficult to navigate the large number of programs and resources. Clear guidance on how to navigate this complex web of programs and resources could greatly help service members.
The researchers did find some potential areas of overlap. There are a large number of high-touch, one-on-one, personalized programs providing similar employment services. There are also many duplicative tools and services that could perhaps be streamlined to cut costs and ensure consistency in information. Many of these federal programs might also overlap with state, local, and nongovernmental programs.
Many programs, including most of the VA programs, serve a limited population, such as service-disabled veterans. Consequently, only a small portion of the reserve components qualifies for each of these programs. The researchers found seven programs targeted exclusively to the reserve components, all within DoD. DoL programs generally serve all Americans, so they are available to reserve component members. VA programs are usually limited to reserve component members who are veterans.
While the researchers did not find any large gaps in the populations being served, they did identify four reserve component populations that may be at risk of losing services if programs are consolidated: (1) reserve component personnel without veteran status, (2) young reserve component members, (3) underemployed individuals, and (4) individuals who live far from military installations or in rural areas.
The researchers make several recommendations for improving federal job placement assistance for reserve component members:
Before making changes to current programs, the researchers recommend that DoD and other federal agencies assess the impact of these changes, ensure that new programs do not overlap with existing ones, recognize that cost is only one aspect of effectiveness, and plan up front to facilitate cost measurement and comparison across programs. These steps will help ensure that any changes are guided by reserve component members' needs while decreasing duplication and filling potential gaps in services.