U.S. manufacturers to invest in veterans skills

October 15, 2012

A collaboration of leading U.S. manufacturers have announced a training initiative to bring 100,000 veterans into the workforce by 2014.

According to The Associated Press, with over 600,000 high-tech U.S. manufacturing jobs currently unfilled, the search has intensified to find or train people to fill the holes and industry leaders believe veterans could have a core set of skills that can be transferred to a nationwide manufacturing strategy. The program is called "Get Skills to Work" and is being backed by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Electric and Alcoa, all of whom will be working with community and technical colleges to offer veterans the chance to bridge the gap between skills they acquired in the military and ones necessary for civilian life.

The program will be run by the Manufacturing Institute, and will launch with 15,000 veterans on the books and ramp up to train 85,000 more within the next two to three years. While there already a number of government initiatives for integrating soldiers and former military personnel into the conventional workforce, this scheme is intended to provide fast track certification in electronics, welding and machine work.

"Where we really see the need is in the supply chain, not just the big corporations like GE," commented Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. "We’ve heard so much about manufacturing jobs in this election cycle, and the need to strengthen the industry. One of the ways we can do that is through veterans."

The manufacturers supporting the program will be setting up training facilities in 10 cities to start with the first batch of veterans expected to be enrolled in GE Aviation's manufacturing facility in Cincinnati. Additional sites will be added throughout 2013 with Fort Worth, Houston, Schenectady, Los Angeles, Evansville (Indiana), Greenville (South Carolina), and Durham (North Carolina) all becoming training centers for high tech manufacturing. Boeing will continue to use facilities in the Puget Sound, while utilizing existing partnerships in St. Louis and Philadelphia.

Unemployment among veterans is generally lower than the current national rate of 7.8 percent, but soldiers returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have found it more difficult to reintegrate, with figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that the unemployment rate for those veterans is normally around 10 percent. Each of the companies involved in the program is investing $6 million in seed funding, which could be increased as the training scheme progresses.