When Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman painted one of his locomotives red, white and blue to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the reason was a mix gratitude and self-interest. Boardman served in Vietnam and the new design was meant to honor America’s veterans. But he also wanted vets to come work for him. “The leadership, reliability and high-tech skills veterans bring to the job are a great resource to the operation of America’s railroad,” he says.
Amtrak expects to hire more than 3,000 workers over the next year, and the company has set a goal to make vets a quarter of all new hires by 2015.
Amtrak’s vet locomotive is the workhorse P42 Genesis engine manufactured by GE. It pulled into Los Angeles this morning for a Hiring our Heroes jobs fair organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Amtrak is one of many companies courting veterans. GE, for example, hired 1,000 vets in 2012 and the company is actively seeking and training more. Last fall, GE and partners Alcoa, Boeing and Lockheed launched the Get Skills to Work coalition designed to fill vets’ skills gaps and provide employers with the right tools to recruit hire, and mentor veterans. The program, which also includes the Gary Sinise Foundation, has a goal to reach 100,000 veterans by 2015. GE started hiring the program’s first graduates this spring.
According to estimates, there are 1.9 million unemployed veterans in the U.S. At the same time, there are some 600,000 open advanced manufacturing jobs across America. More than 82 percent of manufacturers report they cannot find people with the right skills to fill openings.
“The need is obvious,” said Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO. “The challenge is matching their skills to our job openings and getting them the right jobs.”