Today, 600,000 high-tech manufacturing jobs remain open in the United States and more than 82 percent of manufacturers report that these jobs are unfilled because they can’t find people with the necessary skills. More specifically, according to a Manufacturing Institute survey, there is a critical skills gap in advanced manufacturing. Jobs in this sector are more demanding than ever and require increasingly sophisticated skill sets. Veterans offer the technical, leadership, and critical thinking skills that advanced manufacturing demands.
As the charitable arm of a mining, manufacturing, and engineering company, Alcoa Foundation is addressing the manufacturing skills gap issue by investing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and workforce development partnerships with innovative initiatives focused on developing the next generation of skilled operators, managers, tradespeople, engineers, and designers.
Facing shortages of qualified operators, skilled tradespeople, and experienced supervisors, Alcoa, like other manufacturers, is reaching out to veterans as an untapped source of talent. Through recruiting and outreach activities, we learned that highly qualified veterans face a “translation” challenge — how to translate military experience and skills into the civilian workforce’s job requirements for careers in manufacturing? Alcoa employees who participate in volunteering initiatives, like the American Corporate Partners mentorship program, often get asked about this. With one million veterans expected to exit the armed forces over the next four years, “translation” will continue to be an issue. Veterans not only need jobs, they need the tools to be successful in addition to actual opportunities for employment.
Recently, Alcoa Foundation joined a list of blue-chip corporations that are working together to accelerate skills training at community colleges for U.S. veterans; help veterans and employers translate military skills to advanced manufacturing jobs; and empower employers with tools to recruit, onboard, and mentor veterans. The Get Skills to Work coalition, led by GE and joined by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is managed by the Manufacturing Institute with a goal of training and matching 100,000 veterans with careers in manufacturing by 2015.
Forming the coalition and coordinating with nonprofits to train, recruit, and develop veterans is an exciting model that has the potential to change lives and produce a significant competitive advantage for U.S. manufacturers. We are honored to be part of this worthwhile endeavor.
In addition to the coalition, we continue to invest in our outreach to veterans through our foundation and HR recruiting efforts, with partners including American Corporate Partners, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Recruit Military, and Orion International.
It is our experience that companies, foundations, and nonprofits that create connections and bring multiple entities together are more efficient and effective. So, we encourage you to join the Get Skills to Work coalition or share your best practices for training and hiring veterans with others in your network.
Scott Hudson is principal manager at Alcoa Foundation.