Earlier this month, President Obama stopped by a Honeywell manufacturing plant in Golden Valley, Minn., to announce his new initiative designed to ease the transition for veterans entering the civilian workforce. Honeywell has hired hundreds of veterans across the nation since early 2011, making it the ideal place to highlight the administration’s efforts to help former service members find employment.
Called the “We Can’t Wait” Initiative, the Defense Department is partnering with different manufacturing, welding and engineering groups in order to give service members the civilian credentials and licenses necessary to acquire jobs after the military.
It is estimated that as many as 130,000 veterans could benefit from the program.
Addressing the crowd at Honeywell, Obama criticized the current system that wasted time and money forcing veterans to undergo additional training for jobs they were already qualified to perform.
“If you can save a life on the battlefield, you can save a life in an ambulance,” he said. “If you can oversee a convoy or millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help manage a supply chain or balance its books here at home. If you can maintain the most advanced weapons in the world, if you’re an electrician on a Navy ship, well, you can manufacture the next generation of technology in our factories.”
The president went on to say that many returning veterans with advanced skills “don’t get hired simply because they don’t have the civilian licenses or certifications that a lot of companies require.”
At the same time, many business leaders have said they cannot find enough workers with the necessary skills to fill open positions.
“Eighty percent of manufacturers say this, according to one survey,” Obama said. “So think about it — we've got all these openings and all these skilled veterans looking for work, and somehow they’re missing each other.”
There are three different partnerships designed to make it easier for separating service members to find jobs.
The first is with the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, allowing the military to issue certifications in logistics and advanced manufacturing. The pilot program will be conducted through the Army and assessments could start as soon as July.
The second is with American Welding Society and National Institute for Metalworking Skills that will qualify service members as welders and machinists. The pilot program will take place at Fort Lee, VA, which trains about 20,000 students each year.
The third partnership is with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, which will expand job certification program opportunities for Army engineering students in highly specialized or technical fields. The initial one-year test program will apply to officers and warrant officers.
A Department of Defense task force has been established to search for more opportunities for service members to carry over their qualifications from the military. White House officials have said the next goal is to provide civilian certifications for truckers and emergency medical technicians.
Although many civilian jobs could still require additional training or a college degree, these kinds of initiatives have a lot of potential to benefit the military community and help service members find work after separating.