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Helping Veterans 'Get Skills to Work'

A unique private sector coalition aims to help 15,000 Veterans translate their military experience to advanced manufacturing opportunities.

It’s hard to believe that we will soon celebrate the one year anniversary of the President’s unveiling of the Veterans Jobs Bank, hosted at the In one short year, more than 5,000 employers posted more than 1 million Veteran friendly jobs. But statistics only tell part of the story.

The combined commitment of the private sector, teamed with the government to serve our returning Veterans, tells the rest.

I was honored to travel to New York City this week to participate in the announcement of a unique private sector coalition that aims to help 15,000 Veterans translate their military experience to advanced manufacturing opportunities. And 15,000 is just the beginning, with significant planned expansion over the next several years.

When I was first approached by General Electric, the leader of this “Get Skills to Work” coalition, about participating I thought to myself, “Let’s see, a training program that will make the U.S. more competitive and gives our transitioning Service members and Veterans the additional technical skills they need to succeed in this sector of the economy? That’s brilliant!”

The GE “Get Skills to Work” coalition entails three main components: an accelerated skills training program; translation of military experience to civilian manufacturing job opportunities through an online “badging system”; and partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families to create an employer toolkit for expanded hiring, developing, and mentoring of Veterans. Through a blend of business, digital, academic, and not-for-profit partners, “Get Skills to Work” aims to close the advanced manufacturing gap, bolster the talent pipeline, and enhance American competitiveness.

I am very excited to be a part of it. With only 1% of our country currently serving in the Military, most employers today have little idea who our Service members are or what skills they bring to the private sector.

Companies who are willing to invest in Veterans as employees experience what I call the “Vet Effect.” It’s the fundamental change in a company’s DNA when Veterans bring their leadership experience, team approach, and loyalty to the mission to work. I’ve seen firsthand the meaningful change it brings within an organization.

The bottom line is this: communities, and employers, all over America are being inspired to help. Through programs like the First Lady’s “Joining Forces” and terrific initiatives like GE’s “Get Skills to Work” program we are truly linking our Veterans to great opportunities.

And other great organizations and communities are following suit.

One of them is Charlotte, North Carolina, where I will travel this week to commemorate the Charlotte Bridge Home organization. That team is serving Veterans in the area during their transition by identifying their education, employment and healthcare needs and then connecting them to the right community, state and Federal resources.

And so I get to end my week as I began it in New York, further solidifying our unified commitment to Service members and their successful transition.

And that kind of success will change not just the lives of our Service members and Veterans; it could change the whole country.

John Campbell is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.