Op-Ed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden: Veterans With Job Skills America Needs
The following op-ed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden appeared in The Wall Street Journal.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden: Veterans With Job Skills America Needs
When America’s leading companies look to hire top technology talent, their search often follows a well-worn path: Recruiters fan out to world-renowned institutions like MIT, Caltech and Stanford, or they solicit applications from community colleges and other universities with the leading IT and engineering programs. For too long, though, another source of talent has been largely overlooked, despite producing many of America’s most talented technology professionals.
We’re talking about the U.S. military.
On land and in the air, under the sea and out in space, America has the most technologically advanced armed forces in history.
Military researchers and inventors have pioneered technological innovations, including the Internet and GPS, that have transformed modern life. Today, more than 150,000 men and women in the U.S. military are working in tech jobs—like the developers who create the software for fighter jets and the network engineers who protect our country from cyberattacks.
And whether they were establishing wireless networks in Baghdad, repairing communications equipment in the mountains of Afghanistan, or maintaining data-storage units on 100,000-ton aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, these military personnel have often done their jobs in conditions that most people can’t even begin to imagine.
Given this experience, chances are that these men and women can handle whatever comes their way in an office building in Silicon Valley. And when they decide to hang up that uniform and make the transition to civilian life, any company that decides to hire or train them will surely benefit from what they have to offer.
Former Air Force cyber analyst Donny Greene is a perfect example. Last year, after more than two decades in the military, Donny took a job at a company called RBR-Technologies. Since then, he has already completed numerous certifications, represented the company at multiple conferences and worked tirelessly to develop junior analysts. Today, RBR tells us, customers frequently request Donny by name to support their cyber exercises and operations.
Many military spouses, who serve and sacrifice right alongside America’s men and women in uniform, have similar skills and experience. Sandy Brown’s husband is an Army colonel. And even while their family frequently moved from base to base across the country, Sandy continued to excel in her own career. After starting as a software engineer at Raytheon 16 years ago, she is now an area director responsible for $350 million of their business and more than 2,500 employees.
In addition to their hard skills, veterans and military spouses like Donny and Sandy also bring plenty of hard-won life skills: an exacting sense of discipline; a commitment to executing missions perfectly every time; the ability to juggle competing priorities; experience managing diverse teams in high-pressure situations.
It is therefore not surprising that companies across America have realized that hiring veterans and military spouses isn’t just the patriotic thing to do: It’s the smart thing to do for their bottom lines.
That is why, on Thursday, more than 50 American companies and organizations—from small startups to multinational corporations like Amazon, J.P. Morgan Chase, and AT&T—are pledging to hire more than 110,000 veterans and military spouses and to train more than 60,000 of them.
These companies won’t be hiring just for tech jobs, but also for the countless other roles that tech firms need to fill, from logistics and administration to human resources and project management. No matter what job a company has open, chances are that America’s men and women in uniform have been doing that job already in the military and will show up ready to succeed on day one.
The companies making these commitments aren’t alone. Since we launched our Joining Forces initiative in 2011 and started asking Americans to honor and support service members, veterans and their families, leaders in many industries—from private equity and construction to transportation and energy—have answered the call. All told, over the past five years the unemployment rate for veterans has been cut in half, and through Joining Forces companies have hired or trained more than 1.2 million veterans and military spouses.
Despite that remarkable achievement, there is plenty left to be done: 200,000 service members are returning to civilian life every year, and as far as we’re concerned, one unemployed veteran is one too many.
That is why, no matter who takes our husbands’ places next year, we urge them to continue making veteran and military-spouse employment a national priority with leadership from the White House. Giving these men and women an opportunity to find their next mission here at home isn’t just good for American businesses, it is one important way that we as a nation can fulfill our obligation to serve them as well as they have served this country.
Mrs. Obama is the first lady of the United States. Dr. Biden is the second lady of the United States.