President Barack Obama today announced a new presidential initiative aimed at preparing service members for civilian employment.
Obama provided details about the military-to-civilian certification program during his visit to a Honeywell International Inc. plant in Golden Valley, Minn. Defense contractor Honeywell reportedly has hired hundreds of military veterans at its plants and facilities since early 2011.
"Let me tell you something -- if you can save a life on the battlefield, you can save a life in an ambulance. 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," Obama said at the plant. "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 advanced technology in our factories like this one. If you're working on complex machinery, you should be able to take those skills and find a manufacturing job right here -- right here at home."
But unfortunately, Obama said, many returning veterans with such 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, the president noted, business leaders often say they can't find enough workers with the skills necessary to fill open positions.
"Eighty percent of manufacturers say this, according to one survey," Obama said. "So think about it -- we got all these openings and all these skilled veterans looking for work, and somehow they're missing each other."
That doesn't make any sense, the president said, noting it's time to fix it.
"Today, I'm proud to announce new partnerships between the military and manufacturing groups that will make it easier for companies to hire returning service members who prove they've earned the skills our country needs," Obama said. "Soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen -- if they've got skills in machining or welding or weapons maintenance, for example, you'll have a faster track to good-paying manufacturing jobs."
"Service members with experience in logistics or maintenance on the front lines" will "have a faster track to jobs in those fields here at home," he added.
The initiative will enable up to 126,000 service members to obtain civilian credentials and certifications in a number of high-demand industries, officials said.
"I applaud President Obama's initiative to help thousands of service members obtain industry-recognized certifications for the trade skills they have learned and worked hard to master while in uniform," Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in a statement issued today.
The Defense Department has created a military credentialing and licensing task force as part of the initiative, officials said. It developed partnerships with major manufacturing credentialing agencies to expand certifications to active duty military personnel in the fields of engineering, logistics, maintenance and welding.
"Supported by the efforts of the Defense Department's military credentialing and licensing task force, these certifications will give our returning troops a leg up in a competitive job market, and they will make it easier for veterans to transition to civilian life," Panetta said.
Service members can earn these credentials free of charge. The services will also explore how credentialing opportunities can be integrated into existing military training programs and expanded to include everyone with relevant skills and training, the officials said.
The initiative was developed in response to a report on veterans' employment by the President's Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Council. The report, Military Skills for America's Future: Leveraging Military Service and Experience to Put Veterans and Military Spouses Back to Work, describes the difficulties faced by veterans and military spouses in transitioning their military experience to civilian employment.
Three such partnerships will begin this summer, the officials said.
The first, a partnership between the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council and the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, will involve a pilot program for a limited number of service members. They will be eligible to "achieve industry-recognized credentials that can support a transition from military service to frontline jobs in the growing fields of advanced manufacturing and logistics," according to a statement issued by the White House.
The second partnership, among the Army, the American Welding Society and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, will provide unlimited certification testing at the U.S. Army Ordnance School at Fort Lee, Va., for soldiers in certain machinist and welding specialties.
The school trains about 20,000 service members each year to develop, produce and maintain weapons. Service members who acquire these specialties will automatically receive the equivalent civilian credentials.
The third partnership, between the Army and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, will expand certification opportunities for officers and warrant officers at the Army's Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. The school will conduct a one-year pilot program for students to qualify as Certified Manufacturing Technologists and earn Lean Bronze Certification -- industry-standard manufacturing engineering certifications.
"Going forward, the president and I will remain committed to addressing the full range of challenges our troops and their families face as they leave the service, and to making sure that these men and women have the support they so richly deserve," Panetta said in his statement. "They are a national asset, and they stand ready to continue making our country great in their civilian careers."
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