Construction industry to hire 100,000 more veterans

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A coalition of more than 100 construction leaders will hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years, first lady Michelle Obama announced at the Department of Labor Feb. 10.

“America’s military turns out some of the highest-skilled, hardest-working employees this country has ever seen,” Obama said at the press conference.

Across the country, 2,600 American Job Centers are committed to matching qualified veterans with stable jobs. The first lady said the White House initiative, Joining Forces, is dedicated to easing the transition from military to civilian life for veterans by providing them resources to translate their skills into the construction industry.

Veterans often face licensing and credentialing barriers amongst other obstacles such as physical or mental disabilities when reentering the workforce.

“The Department of Labor will do whatever it takes to help our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs,” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said.

Perez said the coalition reiterates President Barack Obama’s vision of equal access to opportunities for all, which he mentioned in his 2014 State of Union address.

Construction is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., with an estimated annual growth rate of 2.6 percent from 2012 to 2022. That growth would result in more than 1.6 million new jobs.

The construction industry added more jobs in January than in any month since March 2007, Perez said. The veteran unemployment rate decreased from 7.6 percent to 5.6 percent within the last year.

“What we have here is a perfect fit,” Perez said. “Veterans who are ready to work and the construction industry that needs exactly what veterans have to offer.”

Larry Melton, project executive for Bechtel Construction and Engineering, entered the construction industry after retiring from the Marine Corps 17 years ago.

“I can’t think of anything an employer would want more from their workers,” Melton said, at the press conference. “My fellow veterans have shown up prepared, they are committed, and they accomplish whatever mission is put before them.”

In addition to construction, the Department of Defense is working to place veterans in other high-demand fields such as plumbing and air conditioning.

“You all are sending a clear message that in this country, we honor those who’ve sacrificed for us,” Obama said. “When they return home, we are going to have their backs.”

Reach reporter Cathryn Walker at cathryn.walker@shns.com or (202) 326-9867.

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