Gov. Pat Quinn (D) announced a veterans job training program Wednesday that pairs manufacturers with community colleges in Illinois.
Since manufacturing jobs are growing, General Electric’s “Get Skills to Work” (GSTW) program helps veterans find jobs and trains them as they transition to civilian life after serving in the military.
According to the United States Department of Labor, as of August 2013, there are 671,000 unemployed veterans in the United States.
“We want to make sure that all of our service members and veterans, when they come home, get a j-o-b and a good job,” Quinn said. “Our veterans and service members have great skills. In the 21st Century, we have to have advanced manufacturing. That’s why this initiative is so important.”
Actor Gary Sinise, who has been a part of the GSTW program since its launch last October, said that there are many manufacturing jobs, but there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill them.
“We have to take care of our veterans,” he said. “Once they leave the service, they can continue to serve by giving back to our economy through manufacturing.”
Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), a Decatur-based American food-processing corporation, announced it will participate. Michael D’Ambrose, senior vice president of Archer Daniels Midland, said ADM has 17,000 people in the United States.
“Every veteran should come home to a job,” he said. “It’s critical. That’s why the certification program is important. We need to do more as employers.”
President and Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Greg Baise said one place where manufacturing training is found is in the community college system.
William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Ill. is one of the community colleges that will help train veterans for manufacturing jobs.
Kenneth Ender, president of William Rainey Harper College, said there are 600,000 manufacturing jobs available in the United States. He also said that veterans are already highly skilled, but have not had a way to crosswalk their skills to the skills necessary for advanced manufacturing jobs.
Many veterans said they’ve had problems trying to find a job and look forward to the GSTW program.
Daniel Brewer was in the Navy and a former GSTW participant. He said that the skills he learned in the program were used in the workforce.
Hector Dones, 47, is an Army veteran and has been unemployed for 12 years. He has 20 years of construction experience.
“It’s been tough finding employment with this job market,” he said. “I’m excited about the program and open to a career shift.”
Manuel Guzman, 47, was in the Navy for 17 years and is currently unemployed. He wants to get a job in higher education or information technology.
“It’s hard to get work,” Guzman said. “The program gives the opportunity to explore options once we finish serving the country. I’m willing to transition into manufacturing work.”
Nicole Mandeville, 42, is an Army veteran and said the program sounds interesting, but she is wondering how they plan to reach the female veterans and what social services will be offered.
“Currently, the female veteran population is expected to increase,” she said. “Many of them are homeless…there are other things besides getting skills that are important.”
Sinise said that GSTW’s goal is to have 100,000 veterans working in manufacturing by 2015.
Brittany Delk contributed to this story.