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Our Nation’s Veterans: Armed with the Skills Needed to Succeed in Manufacturing

Could military veterans be key to bridging the skilled worker shortage that continues to impact manufacturers? Absolutely.

In fact, it’s becoming more and more apparent that military veterans make ideal employees. First of all, many come out of the service with desirable technical skills. The military trains thousands of electro-mechanical technicians, welders, machinists, and maintenance and machine repair technicians to keep mission-critical aircraft, ships, vehicles, and complex weaponry in operation. Thanks to this experience, they can readily translate these skills to complex products and manufacturing equipment.


Veterans are team players and problem solvers and are used to fast-paced challenging conditions. They understand the value of safety, standard procedures, and quality standards. The military places strong emphasis on leadership development, so many veterans are experienced supervisors and managers.


How veterans can transition into a manufacturing career


One barrier for both veterans and employers is simply communication. Veterans may not always see how military job designations and industry job requirements relate. Employers have the same problem in reverse. To help solve that problem, an online Military Skills Translator tool is available via the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans’ Employment Center and other websites. The veteran can input his or her military skill designations and see what the equivalent civilian description is. Manufacturing employers have access to the reverse and can also find qualified resumes uploaded by veteran applicants.


Another apparent employment obstacle is education. When a job requires a college degree, some vets and employers may not realize that military training and experience can be of equal value. Simply adding “or equivalent military training and experience” to a job posting can open the door to opportunity.


There are plenty of ways to overcome obstacles and facilitate the transition. Here are a few places to start:


1)    Get Skills to Work


The Manufacturing Institute is leading the Get Skills to Work coalition, which includes dozens of companies like GE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Alcoa as well as smaller ones like Knuth Hinge Company and Nashville Wire Products, to. Also participating are the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, LinkedIn, and the VA Center for Innovation (VACI). Get Skills to Work has produced a handy employer playbook, “From Military Front Lines to Manufacturing Front Lines: Veterans and Your Workforce.”


2)    Special Employer Incentives


The VA offers a number of avenues to help both vets and employers. One is a Special Employer Incentives (SEI) program that helps match qualified veterans with job requirements, and allows employers to hire trainees at an apprenticeship wage, reimbursing them for up to half the veteran’s salary.


3)    Work Opportunity Tax Credit


With the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), employers can get help paying for training, starting with of up to $9,600. In addition, veterans can use their GI Bill benefits to cover some types of education and training.


4)    Workshops for Warriors


Workshops for Warriors (WFW) in San Diego, Calif. is an example of a regional initiative. WFW offers an intensive 16-week program providing skills in welding, CAD/CAM programming (SolidWorks and Mastercam), CNC machining including laser and waterjet cutting, and a path to metalworking skills credentials. There is also a track with basic and intermediate welding classes accredited by the American Welding Society (AWS).


5)    Military to Manufacturing Career Pathways


Military to Manufacturing Career Pathways (M2M) at the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound (CAMPS) in Washington State is another example. It recruits, pre-qualifies, and trains veterans for careers in manufacturing. Short manufacturing training sessions at Military Service Center sites ready the veteran for immediate placement in entry-level manufacturing jobs. The employer can then provide further training or tap CAMP’s Structured On-the-Job (SOJT) services.


The competition to recruit veterans is becoming fierce. Manufacturers should be thinking about a comprehensive outreach strategy that includes contact before military personnel separate from the service and support after the hire.  To build a strong workforce for your future, you need these motivated men and women to enlist in your campaign for competitive advantage.

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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