Comment: Veterans can deliver their skills to manufacturing

The Get Skills to Work" program is a major step forward in addressing the Skills Gap by getting military veterans to use their applicable talents and skills in manufacturing.


"Monday’s announcement of the Get Skills to Work program by the Manufacturing Institute and for major American manufacturers is to date the highest profile attempt by American manufacturing to bridge its ever-widening Skills Gap. The first four companies to sign up were Alcoa, Boeing, GE and Lockheed Martin. All of them have a strong tradition in American manufacturing; all of them also are major defense contractors or suppliers.

They fully understand the relationship between a strong military and a strong manufacturing environment. They also see the strong connection between the two, especially at this pivotal time in manufacturing.

There is an unquestioned need for skilled manufacturing workers, and enlisting military personnel is both a strong political and strategic move. Reaching out to reemploy veterans in the private sector after their service to their country was completed has long been a patriotic concept. More than at any time since World War II, Americans value the service of our military personnel, and this program is yet another attempt to recognize and honor that service.

American military personnel are trained on some of the world’s most sophisticated equipment. They understand discipline, commitment to hard work and an ability to apply critical thinking to solve problems. This skill set is exactly what many manufacturing employers want and need as they address a technological evolution in manufacturing. Plant managers need this kind of skill set to be able to remain competitive in a global manufacturing environment.

“Veterans offer the technical, leadership and critical thinking skills that advanced manufacturing demands,” said Paula Davis, president of the Alcoa Foundation, in a press release announcing the formation of the coalition. “Forming the Get Skills to Work coalition and coordinating with nonprofits to train, recruit and develop veterans is an exciting model that has the potential to change lives and produce a significant competitive advantage for U.S. manufacturers.”

The timing of this announcement comes as wars are winding down in Afghanistan and Iraq and military personnel will be returning to civilian life. Get Skills to Work estimates that one million veterans will leave the Armed Forces over the next four years, while 600,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs remain unfilled.

Manufacturing needs this influx of skilled talent. Manufacturing leaders need to deliver the same level of service to our returning veterans that they have delivered to us during their time in the military. We would have this obligation even if there were not a Skills Gap. The fact that one exists is all the more reason to get moving on this initiative today.

The roster of manufacturers involved in Get Skills to Work current stands at four. I expect that roster to grow rapidly. But even without the formal involvement in this program, manufacturers around the country can and should tap into this resource without delay.

Our soldiers are coming home, and a warm greeting and a parade is one way to welcome them home. But after the parade is over, let’s make sure we have a job training program and a job in manufacturing waiting for them. It’s good for manufacturing, it’s good for our veterans and that has to be good for America. 

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