Jeffry Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric (NYSE:GE), wrote an article describing the “Get Skills to Work” coalition. The venture is a joint effort between colleges, veterans organizations, and companies like Alcoa (NYSE:AA), Boeing (NYSE:BA), and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) aimed at placing skilled veterans in advanced manufacturing positions.
“We know that there are 600,000 open high-tech jobs, just waiting to be filled,” writes Immelt. “With transition support and training, vets can succeed in these jobs. Manufacturers need skilled workers.” He goes on to point out that in Durham, North Carolina, 40 percent of GE employees are veterans.
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A general decline in manufacturing in the United States has exacerbated a slow economy. As Immelt points out, nearly 70 percent of research and development investments support manufacturing, and the industry employs about 12 million people. Major manufacturers have claimed that there is a lack of skilled labor in the workforce to fill open positions. The coalition is looking to capitalize on skilled, hard-working soldiers entering the civilian workforce as America winds down wars in the Middle East. The unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is about 2 percent higher than the national rate.
The initiative kills two birds with one stone: It helps employ veterans and integrate them into the workforce, while at the same time filling job openings at manufacturing companies that have been hard pressed to find the kind of skills and talent they are looking for. The companies are providing about $6 million in seed money for the initiative. Organizers hope to qualify 15,000 veterans with the first iteration of the program.