Kennametal Inc. announced an initiative last week to actively recruit former military personnel into manufacturing positions, with the goal of hiring 50 vets this fiscal year. So far, four veterans have joined Kennametal, including the company’s new Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain and Logistics Pete Dragich, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
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Actively recruiting vets is a growing trend in manufacturing. In October, the Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit arm of the National Association of Manufacturers, joined GE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Alcoa Foundation and others to launch a coalition to position military veterans for jobs in advanced manufacturing. The goal of the Get Skills to Work partnership is to accelerate skills training for U.S. veterans and connect vets with employers.
The program helps companies identify workers with the right skills for different careers through the US Manufacturing Pipeline website. There veterans looking for manufacturing work enter their military occupation codes, which the site uses to assign “Military Manufacturing Badges” to their profiles. The badges help companies understand which codes relate to which skills, for example electronic assembler, pipefitter or welder.
The Manufacturing Institute program also addresses gaps between veterans’ existing skills and those needed to succeed in the industry through a program called "Right Skills Now." The program, an extension of the NAM-endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System, creates education pathways aligned with careers in manufacturing.
Initiatives to place retired military into more jobs are an obvious aid to veterans, who had an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A million veterans are expected to exit the armed forces over the next four years.
Military-to-manufacturing initiatives could also solve problems for manufacturers, who face a skills and talent gap due to retiring baby boomers and young workers’ waning interest in manufacturing as a career path. Deloitte reports there are 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in the U.S. today, “simply because employers cannot find people with the skills they need.”
And veterans have more advanced technical training versus their non-military age group peers, according an Institute for Veterans and Military Families report. Vets are also more adept at applying skills in different contexts and are more entrepreneurial and resilient to job-related challenges than non-military, according to the report.
Paula Davis, president of Alcoa Foundation, says veterans offer “the technical, leadership and critical thinking skills that advance manufacturing demands.” Davis says the Get Skills to Work program model, in addition to helping vets, has the potential to “produce a significant competitive advantage for U.S. manufacturers.”
Get Skills to Work partners plan to train and match 100,000 veterans by 2015. Learn more about the program at GetSkillstoWork.org.