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Russell Stokes: The Future of Manufacturing Talent

Manufacturing is essential to growing local economies and maintaining America’s competitive advantage in advanced manufacturing. How essential?  Last year manufacturers contributed $1.87 trillion to the U.S. economy.

U.S. Manufacturers are the most productive in the world, but we will need a highly skilled and trained workforce to meet the growing demand. How can American manufacturers work together to maintain a skilled workforce and ensure a strong talent pipeline for manufacturing? By tapping into the skills and abilities our returning military veterans learned while serving their country.

Roughly a year ago, GE and other thought leaders in the industry – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Alcoa and The Manufacturing Institute –launched the Get Skills to Work initiative, a coalition aimed at closing the skills gap and specifically, to supporting veterans as they transition to careers in advanced manufacturing.

A year later, as we celebrate the program’s anniversary, we are on track to meet our goal of reaching 100,000 veterans by 2015.

And now we’ve reached another exciting milestone for Get Skills to Work.  We announced our first-ever state partnership with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. This new Illinois partnership will help the state’s 76,000-plus new veterans pursue and fill open advanced manufacturing jobs by providing training to gain skills certifications.

To ensure the training offered meets local manufacturers’ immediate needs, Illinois employers from across the state will work directly with the state’s community colleges to provide quality education grounded in industry-based, in-demand certifications.

Leaning on Leadership
This program will succeed because, frankly, it makes sense. Veterans bring leadership, reliability, discipline and high-tech skills to the workplace. These competencies make them ideal candidates for manufacturing careers. Get Skills to Work works with specific employers, colleges and communities to give veterans the necessary skills and certifications to meet the needs of the available jobs in their areas.

This veteran-led workforce will be vital in forging America’s future as a center of manufacturing excellence. And initiatives such as Get Skills to Work help move that process along faster. And we consider this just the beginning. We also have partnerships with local after-school programs and universities to foster growth within the critical fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Our belief is really quite simple.  We think that dedication to the local workforce, community programs and job creation will establish Illinois as a leader of manufacturing’s next chapter.

Russell Stokes is president and CEO of GE Transportation.

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