Speaking at Honeywell’s Golden Valley facility in Minnesota last week, the President announced a new initiative that will help thousands of U.S. military members obtain portable, industry-recognized credentials that will help them land quality jobs in advanced manufacturing and other fields after they leave the service.
The initiative will help address two closely related problems. One problem—highlighted by a recent study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute—is that more than 80 percent of manufacturers perceive a moderate to serious shortage of skilled production workers, such as machinists, craftspeople, and technicians. The other problem—recently highlighted by the President’s Advanced Manufacturing PartnershipSteering Committee—is that while veterans and separating service members are a “great resource”to help fill those skills gaps, many of them have trouble conveying their skills to potential civilian employers.
In part that’s because the military has its own system of classifying occupations and accomplishments, which can result in resumes full of military jargon. Credentialing criteria can also vary between the military and civilian sectors. As a result, many of America’s returning heroes miss out on opportunities to get well-paying, high-skill jobs in manufacturing—a sector that has added half a million jobs in the past 26 months, the strongest growth in manufacturing since 1995.
The Administration’s new military credentialing initiative will enable soldiers undergoing training to serve the Nation as machinists at, for instance, the Ordnance School in Fort Lee, Virginia, to earn the “Level 1” certification from the National Institute of Metalworking Skills (NIMS). This certification is recognized nationally by employers, so when a military machinist’s hitch is up, he or she will have a resume that does not need a special decoder. Honeywell—the President’s host last week, which is an active partner in the Administration’s Joining Forces initiative to support veterans and military spouses and whose CEO is on the AMP Steering Committee—has announced that it will allow veterans who have earned this certification to meet its hiring qualifications for machinist positions even if they do not have a two-year degree, which is usually required.
The first phase of this initiative will provide up to 126,000 service members opportunities to gain certifications from NIMS, the American Welding Society, the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council, and the Society for Manufacturing Engineers. These professional societies are founding partners of the Manufacturing Skills Certification System, which was created by the Manufacturing Institute (an arm of the National Association of Manufacturers) to address the skills gap in manufacturing. In a statement on strengthening the “talent pipeline” for advanced manufacturing, the AMP Steering Committee endorsed the kind of industry-defined, nationally-portable certification that this system exemplifies.
The President’s military credentialing initiative and the recommendations of the AMP Steering Committee, details of which will soon be released, build upon the Administration’s Skills for America’s Future partnership to provide 500,000 community college students with industry-recognized credentials that will help them secure jobs in the manufacturing sector. In the first year of this effort, nearly 85,000 certifications were awarded.
David Hart is Assistant Director for Innovation Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy