General Electric adding jobs for military veterans

Sgt. Ben Roberts (C), recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan, speaks with manager Michael Sims (L), at a military job fair for National Guardsmen, veterans and their families on Jan. 19, 2012 in Columbia, S.C. GE announced its plans today to hire 5,000 military vets over the next five years.

Kai Ryssdal: The unemployment rate for veterans, specifically from Iraq and Afghanistan, was 9.1 percent last month -- above the national average. That's actually way better than it was even last summer, but still, it's not always easy to translate military skills to the civilian workplace.

General Electric said today it to make that transition a little easier. GE's going to hire 5,000 veterans over the next five years. Marketplace's Amy Scott reports.

Amy Scott: GE says it already employs more than 10,000 veterans. Now it’s teaming up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to hire more.

Kevin Schmiegel is executive director of the Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes program. It’s helped place more than 7,000 veterans in jobs, but Schmiegel says too many are still out of work.

Kevin Schmiegel: We tell young men and women every day that if they join the military they’re going to be better off when they leave in four years. They’ll be more marketable. They’ll have better opportunities than their peers. And the fact is, that’s not true.

Overall, unemployment is lower for veterans than the general population, but it’s higher for recent vets—especially women. Randy Plunkett is with He says employers often don’t recognize skills learned in the military, and veterans have trouble articulating their skills.

Randy Plunkett: Military folks have language within their culture that is not language understood by those outside their culture.

Plunkett’s website has a skills translator to help bridge that divide. Bryan Zawikowski with Lucas Group helps veterans find work. He says GE’s announcement may inspire other companies to follow suit.

Bryan Zawikowski: Some VPs of HR may be getting calls from their CEOs or CFOs and saying, “Hey, check into this, because GE’s doing it.”

The Obama administration is also trying to put veterans to work. Earlier this month, the president announced a new program that would hire vets to rebuild public roads, trails and levees.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.


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