As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, corporate sponsors and veteran advocates launched The Get Skills to Work coalition to help veterans upgrade their skills to ease the transition back to the civilian work force.
The Get Skills to Work coalition will focus on accelerating skills training for U.S. veterans, helping veterans and employers translate military skills to advanced manufacturing jobs, and empowering employers with tools to recruit, involve and mentor veterans.
Get Skills to Work will be managed by the Manufacturing Institute and supported through financial and in-kind commitments from General Electric (GE), Alcoa Inc., Boeing and Lockheed Martin. These initial investments will help 15,000 veterans translate military experience to corresponding advanced manufacturing opportunities and gain the technical skills needed to qualify for careers in this growing sector. The coalition is seeking additional partners to meet its goal of reaching 100,000 veterans by 2015.
“We currently skills gap in this country. There are 600,000 manufacturing jobs not being filled because the applicants don’t have skills to perform work,” described James Schmeling, managing director and cofounder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IMVF) at Syracuse University. Schmeling is the project management on the toolkit, a peer-to-peer site for businesses to learn best practices for employing veterans.
“Many veterans and active-duty military do have these advanced skills and just need to be connected to the jobs,” said Schmeling.
Reportedly 600,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs remain open in the U.S. and more than 82% of manufacturers report they cannot find people to fill their skilled production jobs. Meanwhile, one million veterans are expected to exit the armed forces over the next four years and will be transitioning to civilian careers.
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The coalition commissioned an online survey of more than 1,000 veterans and active duty military members preparing to transition to the private sector. The survey found that while 76% of respondents are confident they will be as successful in their careers as they were in the military, one-third do not feel equipped to overcome the challenges of the transition to civilian life; the percentage rises to nearly half (48%) when surveying active duty military who are scheduled to transition in two years or less.
Schmeling explains that many of these veterans, thanks to the step-by-step process of the military systems, are natural fits for manufacturing processes requiring high dexterity skills.
“These veterans worked on sophisticated tools for manufacturing and maintaining advanced helicopters, tanks, firearms and weapons,” said Schmeling. “There’s specific processes and steps you take when servicing a jet engine which is similar to the steps they’ll take in manufacturing. Veterans and these jobs go together.”
Currently, the four founding companies (GE, Alcoa, Boeing and Lockheed Martin) already employ approximately 64,000 U.S. military veterans.
The program will consist of three elements:
- Accelerating Skills Training: To help prepare veterans whose military service experience doesn’t immediately qualify them for available manufacturing jobs, coalition partners will work with local community and technical colleges to establish the Manufacturing Institute’s “Right Skills Now” program, which fast-tracks industry-recognized certifications and offers training in core manufacturing technical skill areas. Partners will engage their regional supply base to ensure the certifications being offered meet the immediate skill needs of local employers, and will work with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, as well as local military transition offices and bases, to recruit veteran participants. At the announcement, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College was unveiled as the first training site, with 10 other cities launching sites around the U.S. throughout 2013.
- Translating Military Experience into Civilian Opportunities: Many veterans and employers have difficulty recognizing and translating the skills gained through military training and experience into civilian workforce skill sets. The Manufacturing Institute, working with Futures Inc., has created a digital badge system to help translate applicable Military Occupational Specialty codes (MOS), the U.S. military’s system for identifying jobs, to civilian positions in advanced manufacturing. Skills matching and badge distribution will be supported by the US Manufacturing Pipeline, a centralized online hub that connects manufacturing employers with veterans and transitioning military personnel. Get Skills to Work will also leverage LinkedIn to enable veterans to build their professional profiles and relevant skills on LinkedIn. To boost the number of job opportunities available to credentialed veterans, GE will sponsor an advanced manufacturing “job-posting drive” on the LinkedIn platform.
- Empowering Employers: GE and the IVMF will develop and deploy a toolkit for employers focused on creating meaningful, lasting career opportunities for veterans in the advanced manufacturing sector. The toolkit will share research and proven best practices from more than 40 businesses to deliver processes, resources and programs that will enable more employers to effectively recruit, on-board, support and mentor veterans in the civilian workforce. The toolkit will be available to employers participating in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative and the 100,000 Jobs Mission, as well as the broader business community. The toolkit officially goes live on Dec. 15.
Schmeling, an U.S. Air Force veteran, served six-plus years, honorably discharged at rank of sergeant, lived and worked in Spain where he engaged with Spanish Air Force and Spanish National Geographic Institute. He earned his law degree, with distinction, from the University of Iowa in 1999, and Bachelor of Arts in political science with minor in international studies from Iowa State University in 1997. For him, the biggest plus of the new coalition is businesses working to spread the word that veterans are a valuable addition to the workforce.
“Business and industry are already beginning to broaden the publicity of hiring veterans, and with peer-to-peer learning,” said Schmeling. “They are sharing the value that veterans bring to organizations with their peers and helping the public move beyond the caricature stereotypes of veterans. They’ve gained valuable skills, and with the right opportunity, they’ll be resources.”
–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets