Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Close the Manufacturing Skills Gap #MotionMonday

FIGHTING FOR JOBS — The national conversation about manufacturing always circles back to the skills gap, the disparity between job opportunities in the industry and the number of qualified workers to staff these openings. We hear a lot in the news about efforts being made to interest our future workforce in science, technology, engineering and math careers, so the gap doesn't grow any wider. But what about right now? What can we do in the present to staff our manufacturing workforce? Is there an untapped market of potential employees we're overlooking?

Yes: U.S. military veterans. And a handful of major corporations have made a concerted effort to recruit them into high-paying jobs, accomplishing the twofold aim of beefing up the manufacturing workforce and providing ex-military men and women with great job opportunities. On the tail-end of this Veterans Day weekend, we think it's a fitting time to spotlight that effort.

FROM WAR TO WORK — The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) nonprofit educational branch, the Manufacturing Institute, is spearheading the effort to match up manufacturers with a skilled veteran workforce, according to USA Today. The four companies to so far join in that effort include utility giant General Electric, aluminum makers Alcoa and defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which together plan to hire 15,000 veterans. The goal is to bump that number up to 100,000 if they enlist more support from other companies, the article says.

"The timing is perfect to ... marry those two things together," GE's program manager of veteran initiatives Kris Urbauer tells USA Today. "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."

The four companies that dove in first with this initiative will match military skills with civilian manufacturing work, train veterans and share ideas about how to best recruit and keep ex-military employees, NAM says.

About 600,000 manufacturing positions in the country remain understaffed  according to NAM. And the typical manufacturing worker's age has shifted up to 50, Mike Haynie, head of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracus, tells USA Today.