Manufacturing companies unite to create veterans job program

Many of the largest manufacturing companies in the U.S. have joined togther to launch a program aimed at helping veterans receive skills and training necessary to fill some of the estimated 600,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs that employers say they can't find qualified applicants for.

The program, called www.getskillstowork.org, will initially be offered in 10 cities. The manufacturers will partner with community and technology colleges in those areas to offer training and help veterans get on a faster track to certifications in areas such as electronics, welding and machining.

General Electric and a group called Military Families at Syracuse University are also developing a reference guide that can help employers learn how to more effectively recruit and mentor veterans. It will be available to companies participating in efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the White House to help 100,000 veterans and their spouses obtain work by 2014.

Unemployment for veterans is traditionally a little lower than the the national overall average rate, which is currently at 7.8 percent. Young veterans however,, particularly those returning from duty in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have a higher unemployment rate - averaging about 2 percentage more than the overall national average.

Among the companies involved in the program are General Electric, Alcoa Inc., Boeing and Lockheed Martin. They have provided about $6 million in initial funding.

"We have an opportunity to help veterans with extraordinary leadership capabilities better compete for good paying jobs with a long-term future," said Jeff Immelt, General Electric's chairman and chief executive officer.

The first class of veterans will be enrolled in January near GE Aviation's manufacturing hub at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Ohio. Additional sites will open throughout 2013.

Organizers said they believed the program will help 15,000 veterans qualify for careers in manufacturing. They said manufacturing jobs pay about 27 percent more, on average, than non-manufacturing jobs.

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