Skilled Jobs and Vets, Brought Together

  • Prosperity
  • 2012

“We need to look into this,” said GE chairman Jeff Immelt in 2012. He was bothered by the elevated rates of unemployment among young men and women just leaving the U.S. military. He knew many of them had valuable technical skills. He also knew that his company and many others were finding it hard to hire skilled workers—fully 82 percent of manufacturers now say they can’t find adequate employees for all of their skilled production positions. Over the next decade, it is projected that America will have 2.6 million jobs for which there will be a shortage of workers with the necessary talents.

Mixing corporate philanthropy with corporate business-interest, GE thus launched its “Get Skills to Work Initiative.” The assignment was to unkink the talent pipeline so that a social problem (unemployed veterans) could be fixed at the same time as an economic problem (trained labor shortages). GE began at its aviation business in Cincinnati, and other corporations in the area were invited to join in—including Alcoa, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, plus nearly 30 of GE’s regional suppliers. The Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to improving U.S. factories, was brought in to connect veterans to the areas where these companies would be hiring in the near future.

A host of companies were subsequently recruited into the Get Skills to Work Coalition, which aims to take 100,000 veterans with useful technical abilities and certify them for civilian work, placing many of them immediately in jobs. Where needed skills are not already present among vets, training paths are being established between community colleges and manufacturers. Vets are being recruited to take part through social media and at a dedicated website. 

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