Veterans have a wealth of skills and experience that make them qualified candidates in advanced manufacturing roles.
CERRITOS, California- November 10, 2017- For over 98 years, the U.S. has celebrated military veterans on November 11th first as Armistice Day in 1918 to commemorate the end of World War I, and then as Veterans Day after it was renamed in 1954. Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs defines Veterans Day as "the celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good." According to a survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau in 2013, over 21.3 million veterans resided in the United States and Puerto Rico. Furthermore, due to the nature of the military and the constant necessity to resolve problems, many of these veterans often return with a wide variety of valuable skills.
With an expected 2 million jobs to be left unfilled by 2025 due to a growing skills gap, a wealth of opportunities for veterans potentially lie in the U.S. manufacturing industry. Currently over 80% of manufacturers believe they are unable to find candidates qualified enough to fill skilled or highly skilled roles. Yet many veterans develop an assortment of science, math, engineering, critical thinking, conflict resolution, data analysis, and technology skills essential and extremely desirable to manufacturing companies just like STEM educated candidates.
“Veterans have a lot of skills, but we’re also unique because we all specialized in a certain field while enlisted,” Toolots IT Manager and veteran Manny Aparicio stated. He continued by explaining hiring vets creates a “win-win scenario for companies” because veterans often possess a variety of desirable traits, such as integrity and a respect for procedures, that they bring to the company in addition to their skill sets. The major issue however lies in matching experience and skills to ensure candidates and companies find the right fit for each role.
“Many vets have legitimate trade skills, but aren’t officially licensed or certified,” Toolots Warehouse Representative, Forklift Master, and veteran Sam Campos explained when considering some of the barriers veterans face when returning home. Campos continued by discussing a “communication gap” between civilians and veterans that makes it difficult to understand how a veteran’s military experience can relate or be used to fulfill civilian responsibilities. According to Campos, this “gap” often causes veterans to believe they have no transferable experience, and must start over from square one.
“Whether you worked on diesel engines or planes, you [the veteran] have been taught basic knowledge, you have a foundation which can be expanded and used elsewhere,” Campos elaborated. Similarly, Manny Aparicio stated that the key to success for veterans in the manufacturing industry lies in the skills gained during their service. “It’s all about the ability to repackage [your] skills,” Aparicio explained.
In fact, several organizations and programs have been established throughout the U.S. specifically to help veterans reuse, or build upon, their preexisting skill set. For example, Get Skills to Work, a coalition of manufacturing companies and colleges assisting veterans in obtaining and retaining careers in advanced manufacturing, offers resources like their Fast Track for Heroes programs which help veterans use their existing skill set to quickly earn the certifications and licenses. This resolves the issue of accreditation, and many of the courses can be completed in a week to a month. Additionally, the coalition offers a digital badge program that pairs Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) codes with civilian manufacturing jobs, which essentially correlates military experience with civilian industry experience.
“Vets should know that they can use their skills, they don’t need to start over from square one,” Sam Campos stated.
With the approaching skills gap and continued growth of the manufacturing industry, veterans and manufacturing companies can mutually benefit from increased veteran employment within the industry. Manufacturing companies receive desirable, qualified workers, and veterans obtain the opportunity to pursue long-term careers in the growing industry. However, the issue lies in ensuring veterans recognize their own abilities, most of which are equivalent to civilian STEM educations, and use them in advanced manufacturing roles.
“The transition [after service] is overwhelming, but helping them be aware of the options they have [in manufacturing] is great,” Campos concluded.