The Case for Hiring Veterans: More Than Just Lip Service

The United States' manufacturing sector is in an odd predicament right now. There are currently about 600,000 high-skilled manufacturing jobs that need to be filled, but 82% of manufacturing companies can't find skilled workers to fill those positions. It's unusual problem to have when the U.S. unemployment rate is at 7.8%, but a group of companies think they have the answer to finding great workers -- hire veterans.

Before-the-job training
General Electric
(NYS: GE) , Lockheed Martin (NYS: LMT) , Alcoa (NYS: AA) , and Boeing (NYS: BA) already know the benefits of hiring vets; they already employ about 64,000 combined. Starting in January, these companies will team up to start the Get Skills to Work program and train 15,000 vets for skilled manufacturing jobs. The program is part of the multicompany commitment of hiring 100,000 veterans by 2015.

The program will send veterans to technical colleges to learn additional skills, or to earn certifications, that will help them fill skilled manufacturing positions. GE headed up the project and is also working with the Veterans for Military Families to create an employer toolkit to help companies hire veterans. The kit will help companies recruit, hire, and retain veterans by providing information for company executives, HR professionals, and employees.

In addition to the program, other companies have their own initiatives for hiring veterans. Alcoa has a program that pairs veterans with corporate professionals, to help vets transfer their skills to civilian work environments. In a press release about the program, Paula Davis, president of the Alcoa Foundation, said, "Veterans offer the technical, leadership, and critical thinking skills that advanced manufacturing demands." These companies already know the benefits of hiring veterans, and they're working together to help veterans translate their skills to the work environment, and fill in the chasm of skilled technical jobs.

Doing good is actually good business
Aside from being good for companies to hire our veterans, it's good business, too.

Over the summer, the Center for a New American Security put out a report showing the benefits for businesses who hire veterans. They found that 70% of business who hired veterans did so because of the vets' leadership and teamwork skills, character, and discipline. Sounds a lot like a list of seminars that companies pay good money to have their employees attend each year, doesn't it?

But the benefits of hiring veterans goes much deeper than just leadership skills and good character. The report showed that hiring veterans is good for the company bottom line because vets work longer and harder and take fewer sick days than non-vets do. They also need less supervision to complete a task and have the ability to put themselves into their work environment and make workflow systems better.

Another study, from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, says veterans are also more entrepreneurial (and successful in their businesses), have more advanced technical skills, and know how to apply their skills in a wider range of tasks than do their civilian counterparts. They are also adept at leveraging their skills and experience in diverse work settings and have a strong sense of commitment to an organization.

With these reports out, it's no wonder GE, Alcoa, and others are committed to hiring more veterans -- and they're hiring just in time.

Marching toward lower unemployment
A million veterans will be entering the workforce over the next four years -- yes, 1 million. The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans, currently at 9.7%, is dropping but still has a long way to go. With an economy that's still walking with two left feet, the Get Skills to Work program is a step in the right direction.

Programs like this are more than just good publicity and tax breaks; they're a win-win scenario for everyone. Veterans get trained for jobs, employers hire great workers, and American businesses and investors reap the benefits. So the next time you're digging into a company to see whether it's worth investing in, find out its veteran hiring practices. The company's bottom line may depend on it.

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Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric and Lockheed Martin. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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