Careers after the military have not been easy to come by for many U.S. veterans, according to a recent in-depth report by KSAT 12 News from San Antonio, Texas. KSAT reporters interviewed nonprofits that help military vets find civilian jobs after their service and help them with the transition into civilian life.

These nonprofit experts claim that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is not accurately reporting the unemployment rate for U.S. veterans, because they’re not accurately taking into account all the underemployed vets.

Underemployed veterans often work beneath their skill sets and experience, according to Dan Goldenberg, executive director of the Call of Duty Endowment Program. He cites data from the The Veterans Metrics Initiative (TVMI) from Penn State, stating more than 60% of U.S. veterans are likely to be underemployed when transitioning out of the military.

“Underemployment is a societal problem that is hitting veterans especially hard,” Goldenberg says. “You know on the one hand they’re ‘employed.’ But on the other hand, they’re not employed in a quality manner. They can’t pay the rent.”

According to Goldenberg, many vets don’t try to apply for high quality jobs because they don’t know how to present themselves on a resume or they don’t realize they may already have the experience for more highly-skilled, better-paying positions.

Careers After the Military Often Begin in the Wood Industry

Today there are numerous industries that want to help veterans find careers after the military. In fact, employers across the country have discovered that many vets have the level of experience that puts them in a higher-skilled labor category, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Organizations like the Wood Industry Resource Collaborative (WIRC), provide online resources to help military veterans find good-paying, stable jobs in the woodworking industry. For example, U.S. Army veteran Phil Osborne is now a CNC Control Engineer at C.R. Onsrud, Inc., where he’s found a great career.

“I served in the Army as a Maintenance Supervisor, where I had to maintain and service CNC machines,” Osborne said in a recent interview with WIRC. “It looked like an exciting opportunity to enter the manufacturing industry in a highly technical field. Being an in-ground support equipment maintainer gave me the required mechanical skills to service and repair the CNC machines.”

In addition to his technical skills, Osborne says his employer hired him for his military teamwork experience where he also taught and mentored other service men and women. The management at C.R. Onsrud was impressed by Osborne’s motivation to take on the highly sophisticated and technical equipment at their facility.

The Wood Industry Offers Vets More Job Options

As noted above, many vets are not fully aware of how their experience could transition into great careers after the military, such as a highly-skilled job in wood manufacturing or other wood industry careers.

These skills might include:

  • Pipefitting and design modifications
  • Maintenance of heating or cooling systems
  • Working with protective equipment
  • Reading complex schematics
  • Operating power tools or machinery

Teamwork skills are especially important to growing a career in the wood industry, because many wood manufacturing projects require communication and cooperation, with the team members learning from each other.

This positive attitude can lead to many wood manufacturing jobs with good starting pay. Below are just a couple of examples of jobs that may be waiting for service men and women after the military.

Woodworking Machinist/Machine Operator

There are multiple opportunities to work with highly technical equipment in the wood industry, from CNC machining to mastering complex machinery such as artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robots. Many vets like Osborne qualify for these types of careers after the military because they already have experience evaluating blueprints, specifications and the material setup required for operating woodworking machines. Woodworking machinist jobs range from shaping individual wood pieces such as a musical instrument to using high-tech design tools to produce artisan-quality products for mass production.

All of these jobs require critical thinking skills and hand-eye coordination to operate machinery while adhering to health and safety standards. Specific woodworking machinist job duties might include:

  • Sawing machine operation, which may be combined with CNC machining

  • Operating lathes, drill presses, routers, sanders and planers

  • Assembling wood structures and creating frames

  • Detailing wood pieces for quality and accuracy

  • Positioning wood stock for cutting, modeling and sanding

  • Wood Flooring Installer

  • Wood flooring installers often earn over $40,000 a year. This profession is a great option for transitioning into a career after the military. While a formal education is not required to become a wood flooring installer, it does demand extensive on-the-job training to master this profession. Fortunately, there are many wood flooring apprenticeship programs in repair technologies, construction management or facilities management that allow military veterans to earn income while completing their installer training.

Wood flooring installation job duties might include:

  • Removing existing flooring and prepping the area before installation
  • Measuring and cutting the flooring according to the specifications
  • Properly laying finish materials that improve the aesthetic of the building
  • Using math to measure/calculate material requirements
  • Working with customers to achieve the desired flooring results

Wood Finisher/Finishing Specialist

Wood finishing is another great option for vets seeking careers after the military. It doesn’t take a formal education and salaries often start around $34,000 a year. Wood finishing does require an eye for detail for projects such as refurbishing old furniture or creating new furniture or other custom wood products.

On-the-job training might include restoring and finishing damaged and second-hand items, such as cabinetry, using hand or machine finishing processes and tools. Additional wood finishing duties might include:

  • Inspecting wood for rot or physical damage
  • Ensuring sanding dust and debris have been removed
  • Identifying different hues and selecting finishing products
  • Making mathematical calculations to repair small defects
  • Communicating with clients and problem-solving finishing challenges

Getting Started in Wood Careers After the Military

Earning good pay after the military begins with the right training, which is readily available on the job for most wood industry careers. WIRC partners with wood trade associations to provide online resources to help vets find job opportunities and training.

Visit WIRC’s career resources page, where they post scholarship and apprenticeship opportunities that provide the experience for good-paying wood industry jobs. In many cases, employers are looking for apprentices to hire for entry-level jobs, so why wait to get started? may be the first step to a real career after the military.tive (WIRC) partners with wood trade associations to provide online resources to help you find job opportunities and training in your area. Start exploring your options for building a civilian future.