By Debbie Gregory.
On February 10th, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that over the next five years, more than 100,000 Veteran jobs will be created by more than 100 construction companies. The announcement was made at the National Symposium on Veterans Employment in Construction, hosted by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and the Labor Department.
Labor secretary Perez told symposium attendees that 8.5 million civilian jobs have been created over the past 47 months. He said that the construction industry has been at the forefront of job growth, expecting to create another 1.5 million jobs by 2022. With the construction industry in need of an able-bodied and disciplined workforce, transitioning service members would be an ideal fit to fill these jobs. This mutually beneficial understanding was made possible largely due to the efforts of Joining Forces.
Early in the Obama administration, the first lady partnered with the vice president’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden to create Joining Forces. According to their website, Joining Forces is a “national initiative to engage all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.”
Through Joining Forces, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden presented a challenge to all U.S. Governors to require employers in their states to accept military and out-of state licenses, certifications and qualification for service members. So far, 44 states have joined the effort to streamline certification and licensing procedures for active duty and Veterans.
This promise to create 100,000 jobs is again, a direct result of the impact that Joining Forces has had in raising awareness for military and Veteran families. According to the first lady, the vow came as a result of Joining Forces issuing a challenge to employers, asking what more can we do to honor and support our Veterans and military, and their families?
“And today, all of you answered that question with this incredibly strong commitment,” Mrs. Obama said. “I know that you all have made this commitment not just because it is the patriotic thing to do. But because you know that America’s military turns out some of the highest skilled, hardest working employees this country has ever seen.”
Military service members and Veterans have sacrificed their health and well-being for their country. They have earned the opportunity to have a better life after their service, awarded them through various Veteran employment and education benefits. Many Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have returned home to find that employers aren’t willing to hire them due to their lack of civilian work experience. Veterans have needed to find a way to get employers to see the value in military work experience. In order for this to happen, Veteran career seekers are in need of people who champion their causes. First Lady Michelle Obama, through Joining Forces, can be considered one of those champions.