"Thank you for your service."
As we commemorate Veteran's Day, this simple expression of gratitude is undoubtedly appreciated by many of our service members, past and present, but many of America's veterans could also use something else -- a job.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the nation's 21 million veterans, 11 million -- more than half -- are still in the workforce. Of those, 735,000 were unemployed in September 2012. The overall unemployment rate for veterans of 6.7 percent is slightly better than the national rate of 7.8 percent, but for "Gulf War era-II" veterans, the rate is 9.7 percent. For women veterans of the most recent era, it's a staggering 19.9 percent.
While the military represents the ultimate public service employment, after their commitments are complete most veterans want and need meaningful employment in the private sector to support themselves and their families. Recently, finding a job has been a challenge for many Americans, but imagine starting a new career after being separated from the private sector by the endless ocean surrounding a submerged submarine, or a 13-hour flight to an overseas deployment.
Fortunately, distance is not destiny. Many employers recognize the technical, teamwork and other skills veterans have to offer, and are joining forces with supporting institutions across public and not-for-profit spectrums to leverage those skills on the domestic front.
Veterans bring a host of "hard" skills to potential employers. Whether it's maintaining multimillion dollar machines, working in logistics systems handling billions of dollars' worth of supplies -- or making life-and-death decisions unique to the military experience -- veterans have been "battle tested" in ways few civilians can fully understand or appreciate.
From a "soft" skills perspective, veterans also know what it means to be disciplined, to sacrifice, to lead and to follow, to take responsibility, and to carry out missions through to completion.
What company wouldn't want people like that on its payroll?
Recognizing the shared interests of employers and this pool of high-potential employees, industry leaders in advanced manufacturing, along with the Manufacturing Institute, recently announced the creation of the "Get Skills to Work" coalition, a partnership intended to help 15,000 veterans land jobs in the short-term, and 100,000 veterans begin post-service careers by 2015.
The coalition includes some of America's best-known manufacturers, with founding firms such as GE, Alcoa, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But as large as these corporations are, they are not big enough to fully serve the many veterans seeking careers. As a result, coalition members are teaming with other employers, community colleges and not-for-profit organizations such as ACT, which helps to "translate" military skills into terms that can be recognized on a resume.
With 600,000 advanced (and economically strategic) manufacturing jobs open across the nation because there aren't enough applicants with the necessary skills to fill them, the coalition's mission is to promote the needs of our veterans, our private sector employers and, in a real sense, the long-term economic strength and security of the United States.
On November 11 each year, we make a special effort to express our gratitude to our veterans for the liberties and security we all enjoy. It is impossible to thank them enough, but what we can do is match our heartfelt words with more modest acts of economic patriotism.
If each of us were to simply match the competencies our companies will require tomorrow with the skills our veterans offer today, and then recruit, hire, train and mentor accordingly, the economic futures of our veterans, our nation and the organizations for which we work would all be enhanced -- a "win-win-win" that would make Veterans Day a time of even greater tribute.
"Thank you for your service" is an expression many Americans use to salute those who have served in our military.
If we each were to back up those five words with concrete actions, perhaps someday -- in a much smaller way -- those same words could be said of us.