Can General Electric Lead the Veteran Employment Coalition?

In the middle of October, Jeffery Immelt, the CEO and chairman of General Electric (NYSE:GE), wrote an article about veteran employment. He describes the “Get Skills to Work” coalition, a program backed by manufacturers and colleges aimed at placing 15,000 veterans in advanced manufacturing positions.

There are 600,000 available high-tech jobs that can’t be filled right now, a rare opportunity in a market where there are more than three job seekers per open position on average. The unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans was 10 percent in October 2012, a decrease from 12.1 percent from the period a year ago, but still over 2 percent higher than the population at large.

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The manufacturing industry already employs about 12 million people, but Immelt points out that a large number of them will be retiring in a number of years. The average employee in the industry is 50 years old. Overall, the rate of unemployment in manufacturing was about 7 percent for October 2012, a decline of 0.7 percentage points from October 2011.

Alcoa (NYSE:AA), Boeing (NYSE:BA), and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) are also members of the coalition. Immelt points out in his letter that 70 percent of R&D investments are claimed by manufacturing. The coalition wants to try and translate skills and ideas developed in the military into jobs. The absence of a clear and effective way to translate a military resume into a civilian resume means war-time engineers can’t find work, a situation top manufacturers are hoping to turn around.

The coalition is providing $6 million in seed money and hopes to help employ as many as 100,000 veterans. The four companies currently employ about 64,000 veterans.

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