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Big companies team up to train, employ veterans

Oct. 23, 2013 - 04:29PM   |  
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General Electric has joined with fellow industry giants to train veterans for advanced manufacturing jobs.

The “Get Skills to Work” program was showcased at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting this week in Washington, D.C.

“Get Skills to Work” is a coalition featuring giants such as GE, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as well as more than 450 other manufacturing companies of all sizes. Its goal is to accelerate skills training for veterans and connect them with potential employers, said Kris Urbauer, program manager of veterans’ initiatives at GE.

According to GE, 82 percent of manufacturers report they cannot find qualified job applicants to fill their job openings.

“There are 600,000 jobs in manufacturing today, and those employers can’t find skilled workers,” said Urbauer, a 10-year Army veteran and West Point graduate.

The current manufacturing workforce is also getting older, with large numbers of skilled workers projected to retire in the coming years, Urbauer said.

Pair that with the downsizing of the military and the large number of service members expected to transition to civilian life and this initiative is a perfect fit, she said.

The training offered by the coalition ranges from basic manufacturing skills to higher level jobs such as welding, pipefitting and machining, Urbauer said.

“You have [military occupational specialties] in all of the services that already give folks experience in those types of skills,” she said. “It’s a matter also of having employers become aware of the fact that these vets coming out of the service have skills that translate directly into manufacturing.”

One year after its inception, “Get Skills to Work” has training programs up and running in three locations — in Houston and Forth Worth in Texas, and Cincinnati, Ohio — and plans to continue growing, Urbauer said.

Planned future locations include Schenectady, New York, Greenville, S.C., and Durham, N.C.

So far, 30 of the 53 veterans who graduated from a four-week basic manufacturing course in Cincinnati have found jobs, Urbauer said.

“We can’t guarantee [veterans] jobs, but we want to give them the skills they need,” she said.

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