Interview with John Croucher, Associate Director, Veterans Support Secretariat

In 2015, the Government of Canada introduced the Veterans Hiring Act, amending the Public Service of Canada staffing system to provide employment opportunities for Veterans. This mandated the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and other departments to focus hiring initiatives on Veterans.


In an Interview with Let’s Talk Express, John Croucher talked about CSC’s Veterans Support Secretariat (VSS). John was a captain with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry before being medically released after serious injuries in Afghanistan. He was hired as Assistant Warden Operations at Edmonton Institution in 2015.


Why was the Veterans Support Secretariat established?


CSC was hiring Veterans but they weren’t staying. So In 2017, I was asked by then Commissioner Don Head to take on a project to investigate what was happening; why we had such a low retention level compared to other departments, like Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Revenue Agency, Natural Resources Canada. So that was the seed of the Secretariat. I started looking at the hiring trend: hiring, supporting, and helping Veterans we’d already hired. All those things are what VSS is all about.


What challenges did you find Veterans faced in transitioning to CSC?


It wasn’t CSC per se. It was challenging for Veterans leaving CAF and moving into the public service. I found my own transition from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to the federal public service very challenging. This transition is a complete professional and lifestyle change, as there were adjustments to my day-to-day routine and the way I interacted with others. I found the work environment was very different than the CAF environment. I found it was the same for other Veterans.


Along with a significant cultural transition, Veterans have issues with respect to administration, pay, and other things that normally are taken care of for them in the CAF. That’s not the case when you come to the public service. We were missing the onboarding process: an effort to help new employees transition to whatever their new job is.


What has the Secretariat accomplished since it was established?


There are two major accomplishments the Secretariat has made to help Veterans. First, we did a case study and reached out to the Veterans who self-identified to find out where they are working in CSC, how they were hired, and problems they had transitioning. It opened our eyes to a lot of things.


I thought the majority of our Veterans were correctional officers, but they are not. They represent the smallest number of Veterans at CSC. Most are in clerical and regulatory and administrative services. The case study was good at establishing the foundation to understand what it is we need to do to help our Veterans.


The second thing was the creation of the Veterans National Advisory Committee. We advertised across the country for Veterans to volunteer to represent each of the regions. We now have one or two Veterans in every region that come together quarterly as a committee, which reports directly to the Director General of Resourcing and Operations.  They are a diverse group, representing work classifications across Canada. They discuss Veterans’ issues and what’s going on in their region.


How does CSC attract and promote job positions to Veterans?


We need to be an organization diverse enough to attract Veterans for different jobs, and we need to make sure those jobs are the right fit.


Prior to COVID, we would attend recruiting events specifically for Veterans. We work closely with Veteran Affairs (VAC), and communicate with them two or three times a week on different things. So we have really good communications with VAC, CAF, also with Employment and Social Development Canada, and the Public Service Commission. All these networks really help us to support Veterans.


We work very closely with staffing and recruitment to find out what CSC’s needs are. There is an entity within the armed forces (the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group) that focuses on anyone currently serving who is looking at leaving or retiring. We communicate directly with the group to advertise that we are hiring Veterans.  We also have our own database of Veterans who reached out directly to us and want to be employed by CSC.


A veteran may come to us saying, “I want to be a correctional officer.” But it’s important to look at why the veteran is leaving the military, as well as what skills they have to offer, so that we can explore the right fit with them. So, we help educate the veteran before they apply. It’s one thing to hire Veterans, but if we don’t hire them to the right job they may not be successful on the job,  or they may  leave. That’s not good for CSC or the veteran.


The Secretariat has been analysing those right fit opportunities. The other piece is the onboarding. Once they’re hired, we help them get settled in quickly.


How many Veterans work at CSC?


Unfortunately when a veteran, or anyone, is hired, there is no box to check about working with the military; so no means of knowing how many Veterans we have. We started canvassing through regions and made a request for Veterans to self identify. That number is 287. However, the average number of Veterans working in the public service represents between five and eight percent of employees. As CSC has been recognized by VAC and the public service as one of the choice employers for Veterans, I estimate the number of actual Veterans, based on the national statistical average, would be approximately 1,250.


Does every government department have a Veterans Support Secretariat?


No, at this time, the VSS is specific to CSC. We have developed a network through discussions with other departments that are looking at our template of the VSS in hopes of creating something similar in their own departments. That said, there are other public service departments whom have people focused in on specific veteran issues impacting their potential success.


The Veterans Support Secretariat is a welcome addition to the Correctional Service of Canada, supporting newly hired staff during their transition and employment with the Public Service of Canada. Hiring veterans is an inclusive practice that contributes to the diverse experience of our workforce and brings a unique perspective to CSC.  CSC benefits when we create opportunities in our workplace to include and value veterans’ experience.  


The Veterans Support Secretariat would like to invite all CAF Veterans to step forward and let us know you are out there. Our community of Veterans within CSC continues to grow and we want you to be part of how we improve our support. Please get in touch by emailing the VSS at:

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