As tens of thousands of brave men and women in uniform return home from active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and across the globe, they face a new challenge – finding careers in a tough economy. Even now, millions of unfilled jobs are available for skilled workers, and the military does an excellent job of providing hands-on training in hundreds of disciplines.
The call of duty is to connect the skilled workforce that is the U.S. military with American employers in search of a talented and committed workforce. This January, that effort is fully underway, and I want to use this space to promote an important nationwide initiative being launched by my organization, the Center for America.
Let me begin with some startling statistics. According to 2011 business surveys, nearly 3 million American jobs are unfilled due to lack of available skilled workforce. In manufacturing alone, there are 600,000 unfilled jobs right now. The majority of American employers list “inability to find adequate numbers of skilled workers” as their top concern. The average age of the American skilled worker is 55 years old, and they will retire soon. This is the well-known “skills gap,” and it will serve as an immense drag on the U.S. economy if not fixed quickly.
Contrast those figures with the following numbers from the National Guard and the armed services. Nearly 60,000 National Guard members are currently unemployed, and many more than that across the armed services. Among units returning from deployment, unemployment is as high as 54 percent. What’s clear is that there are hundreds of thousands of National Guard Members, veterans and spouses as well as all personnel in all military branches who are trained, skilled, and have demonstrated commitment to a cause bigger than themselves.
The Center for America has formed an alliance with the National Guard and the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN) to launch the “American Jobs for America’s Heroes” Jobs Bank Initiative. Along with dozens of business organizations, trade associations, and corporations, we are encouraging small and mid-size companies to register and post job openings to reach this vital, trained workforce. It’s a fast process, with no cost to employers, and provides immediate access to millions of National Guard, military veterans from all services, and spouses.
In December, I was fortunate to serve as master of ceremonies at the first state launch of the Initiative in my home state of Michigan. I spent time with National Guard members and their families, and I was struck by the fact that so much of the training and real-life application of that training during military service applies to the American marketplace. After all, we trust these men and women with some of the most sophisticated technology, equipment, and logistical efforts on which our freedom depends. We can trust them to provide these skills in the American workforce, too.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan National Guard commander Major General Gregory Vadnais, and American Electric Power chief operating officer Bob Powers shared tremendous insight into the value proposition that occurs when employers connect with military. Businesses grow, new jobs are created, families flourish, and stable and well-paying careers are built. See video of their remarks here.
Over the next several months, the “American Jobs for America’s Heroes” Initiative will host special events in another 10 to 15 states. The good news for American employers is that help is available and on its way in the form of the trained heroes who have served and are serving in our military. In a hotly contested political year, this is one thing on which we can all agree.