Former Petty Officer 2nd Class Phillip Henderson supervises former Marine Sgt. Jason Wolpert on a repair at Advanced Technology Services in Peoria, Ill. Several manufacturing employers are teaming up to hire more veterans. (DARYL WILSON)
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Training will begin in January near the GE Aviation manufacturing hub in Cincinnati, with other training sites opening in 2013 in:
Fort Worth and Houston, Texas
Puget Sound area, Wash.
San Jose, Calif.
Major manufacturing companies and a national industry group are joining forces to try to bring thousands of former Marines and other veterans hopefully tens of thousands into manufacturing careers.
The wide-ranging effort will systematically match military skills with civilian jobs, offer vets training to fill skill gaps, and share best practices among companies for recruiting and keeping veteran workers.
GE, Alcoa Inc., Boeing and Lockheed Martin have pooled resources to help 15,000 veterans transition to manufacturing careers, and the group hopes to bring that number up to 100,000 if more companies join the effort.
The Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit branch of the National Association of Manufacturers, will manage the project.
Kris Urbauer, GE's program manager of veteran initiatives, said separating veterans looking for work are returning to a job market with a desperate need for manufacturing workers, and "the timing is perfect to … marry those two things together."
"The opportunity to grow manufacturing in the U.S., with this great talent pool kind of leading the charge, is, I think, the perfect confluence," Urbauer said.
Some 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and the average employee in the manufacturing industry is in his 50s, said Mike Haynie, executive director and founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. By 2020, he said the industry will need 10 million or more new skilled workers.
A few years ago, veteran hiring was touted as "the right thing to do" for vets, he said, but now it's seen as "the right thing to do for business, as well."
Program officials have created an online search tool, as well as digital badges, to translate personality traits and work habits into related manufacturing jobs. For more information, visit www.getskillstowork.org.
Urbauer said 21st-century manufacturing is technical and much different from the type of factory work of decades past. Training sites are opening across the country to help vets hone their technical manufacturing skills, with a focus on meeting the immediate needs of local employers.
The initiative also aims to have companies train other companies on how to recruit, hire and retain vets.
"Using many of the same tactics and tools, such as a website for transitioning veterans that includes a military-to-civilian skills translator, we have hired and trained nearly 3,000 veterans in the past 21 months for jobs at Boeing," Rick Stephens, a Boeing senior vice president, said in a news release.
All told, GE, Alcoa, Boeing and Lockheed employ some 64,000 vets.