When manufacturers complain of talent shortages, they are usually overlooking one very good pool of applicants—veterans. Many mid-career professionals exit the military with the kind of discipline and work ethic required in manufacturing—and frequently they have the kind of job skills needed for the industry.
Nonetheless, they may be easily overlooked. Recruiters at small to medium-sized businesses might have misconceptions about their skills and are skeptical that this pool of applicants could provide what is needed in today’s highly technical, computerized manufacturing world. While large corporations such as Texas Instruments and Home Depot have recruited veterans with success, many smaller companies have held back.
However, recruiters in smaller firms may be surprised to find out that many veterans are highly trained in the type of computerized equipment systems and software that is needed to maintain sophisticated computerized equipment today. Others have the type of human resource training and/or financial skills so critical to the success of any manufacturing firm.
The pool of veterans is large and deep today as a result of the return of many veterans from military operations overseas, namely Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these individuals have skills critical to manufacturing and other industries, but may find difficulty in transitioning to a career here in the U.S. This can be seen in the high jobless rate among these men and women. In 2011 it was 12%, substantially above the national job unemployment rate, and for those between 18 and 24, the rate was 30%.
Of course, manufacturers and other large companies with training programs have little trouble dipping into this market. This could put small- and mid-sized firms at a disadvantage. But a number of programs and nonprofits are springing up around the country to give veterans, especially those who returned with disabilities, the additional job skills that manufacturers find very appealing. One program based in San Diego, CA, is called Workshops for Warriors. It provides certification in a variety of manufacturing skills including CAD/CAM training—all at no cost to those who qualify. Of the 57 veterans who graduated from this young program, 100% were placed in jobs. Combined, these veterans earned 129 certificates in manufacturing-related disciplines and skills.
For employees seeking to find veterans who already have manufacturing friendly skills, a growing number of resources exist. Over the past decade, a few companies specializing in the recruitment of veterans for private industry have expanded. The largest of these is RecruitMilitary ®, which has a number of outreach programs including listings online where prospective employers can find the resumes and qualifications of veterans to match to their job searches.
Another good avenue for manufacturers looking into this job pool are career fairs. RecruitMiliary ® holds a number of these around the country each year and at least one of these is usually in the New Yor/New Jersey metro area. Online recruitment fairs offer another way to look over a large array of candidates at once. But this recruiting tool lacks the immediacy of in-person career fairs where prospective employers can also evaluate intangibles like culture and personality fit.
What this all adds up to is that veterans can offer a way for manufacturers to close the skills gap shortage with their years of experience and strong work ethic and reliability.