President Obama, shown here May 31 at the White House while unveiling President George W. Bush's official portrait, on June 1 will announce an initiative that could help thousands of separating service members get the credentials needed to qualify for manufacturing jobs. (Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press)
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The White House is preparing for a Friday announcement of an initiative that could help thousands of separating service members get the credentials needed to qualify for manufacturing jobs.
As part of what the White House is calling the "We Can't Wait" initiative, President Obama will announce a partnership between the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council and the services that will allow some troops to receive industry-recognized credentials in logistics and advanced manufacturing fields.
This will be a pilot program, at no cost to service members, building on existing credentialing programs in skilled manufacturing jobs. For example, it would help a Navy machinist mate receive civilian credentials for his military-learned skills that would be easily recognized in the private sector.
Obama also will announce a second partnership between the Army, American Welding Society and National Institute for Metalworking Skills to provide machinist and welding credentials at the Army's Fort Lee, Va., ordnance school. About 20,000 soldiers attend the school each year, and all graduates will receive credentials, White House officials said. That program, expected to start this summer, will provide level-one machinist certifications to soldiers. Later this year, welder certification is expected to be available.
Another partnership to be announced by Obama is between the Army and Society of Manufacturing Engineers. It will expand certification opportunities for Army engineering students in highly specialized and technical engineering fields. A one-year test program would allow engineer officers and warrant officers to receive SME credentials.
The three partnerships are expected to help up to 130,000 active-duty members get civilian credentials, but it is unclear how many would find post-service jobs as a result of the certification, if they choose to stay in the same field once they leave the military.
White House officials believe there are jobs to be filled because industry surveys show shortages of skilled workers.
The three pilot projects are the start of a much bigger effort that will involve many more military occupations, White House officials said. The next step, officials said, was to try to provide civilian certifications for truckers and emergency medical technicians.
Obama will make the announcements during a visit to a Honeywell manufacturing facility in Golden Valley, Minn. Honeywell, an international manufacturing company with more than 120,000 employees, will announce a new effort to hire veterans that will involve accepting some veterans without college degrees.
The certification programs are the result of a Defense Department task force created to focus on the difficulty of translating military-learned skills into civilian jobs. Even when skills appear similar, there are often differences in training and in practical experience.
The task force is focusing its initial efforts on manufacturing, first responders, health care, information technology, transportation and logistics. In some cases, military training appears to be enough, with some minor tweaks, to receive civilian license or credentials. But in other cases, getting a civilian job could require additional training or a college degree.