U.S. military veterans are contending with high rates of unemployment and scarce opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the September unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was 9.7 percent. That’s down from a year earlier but still significantly higher than the 7.8 percent rate for the country as a whole.
Fortunately for our veterans, there’s a bright spot on the horizon. Officials from General Electric, Alcoa, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are working to change that statistic. They’re participating in the “Get Skills to Work” program, a joint initiative that would create training programs for 100,000 veterans, who already have a range of technical military skills, further preparing them for work in advanced manufacturing jobs.
Get Skills to Work is run by The Manufacturing Institute, a research, education, workforce, and services group that supports U.S. manufacturers. The 15,000 veterans currently on board are being offered a variety of accelerated skills training through regional community colleges. The Manufacturing Institute’s goal is to train another 85,000 over the next three years.
The process begins online with an assessment that evaluates a veteran’s interests and skills and then recommends career choices. Vets can filter their career options by salary, level of education and desired state of employment. The Manufacturing Institute is also working with Futures Inc. to create a digital “badge” system, making it easier for employers to translate Military Occupational Specialty codes (MOS) to civilian positions in advanced manufacturing. The badge system is critical to the program as matching military skills to the civilian manufacturing sector is a precise science.
There are other efforts to train vets who don’t necessarily have military tech backgrounds as well. The Creating IT Futures Foundation, the charitable arm of CompTIA, has created the “IT-Ready Apprentice” program, which equips workers with CompTIA A+ certifications, qualifying them for most entry-level help-desk, call center and technical customer support jobs. The full-time apprenticeships last six months and pay between $12 and $15 per hour.
The Creating IT Futures Foundation is also working with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), providing up to up to 5,000 CompTIA certification testing vouchers for the group’s injured veteran clients. The program, which began July 2011, will continue through 2014. So far, more than 550 participants took certification exams through WWP and achieved a 93 percent pass rate. The vets prepare for testing through WWP’s Transition Training Academy, whose courses are currently offered at eight medical facilities and bases around the country.
- A New Initiative Aims to Train 100K Veterans in High Tech Manufacturing (Stars and Stripes)