GE CEO Jeff Immelt created the Get Skills to Work program for veterans. (Photo courtesy of GE)

GE leads industry veteran hiring push

One of the longest running and most successful corporate slogans in marketing history was General Electric’s "We Bring Good Things to Life." Created in 1979 by GE’s ad agency at the time, BBDO, the promotional line helped correctly transform the company’s image from that of a purveyor of light bulbs and home appliances into that of a broadly based technological innovator and longstanding maker of such un-toaster-like things as aircraft engines and railroad locomotives.

GE, which will be participating in the Legion's Hiring Our Heroes Transition & Benefits Career Fair during the national convention (see below), retired the slogan in the early years of the new millennium, but the philosophy that inspired it remains alive. The industrial giant is now campaigning to “bring good things” to military veterans’ lives – namely, jobs. The iconic American manufacturer, whose founding fathers include Thomas Edison, has now created the Get Skills to Work (GSTW) “military to manufacturing” veteran education and employment matching program. GSTW was launched in October 2012 as a collaborative effort with Alcoa, Inc, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the Manufacturing Institute (a non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers).

According to GE Veteran’s Initiative Program Manager Kris Urbauer, Get Skills to Work was the brainchild of GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, an unabashed fan of military veterans. “Get Skills to Work” he says, “gives us an opportunity to help veterans with extraordinary leadership capabilities better compete for good paying jobs with a long-term future.”

Immelt’s appreciation of veterans’ “extraordinary leadership capabilities” was articulated in an on-stage conversation with retired Gen. Colin Powell during a computing industry conference late last year. In a keynote session, the GE CEO and former Secretary of State discussed principles of leadership. About halfway through the hour-long chat, Immelt commented on GE’s John F. Welch Leadership Center, an in-house executive training facility. The center is 20 miles down river from the U.S. Military Academy; close enough, intimated Immelt, for GE to be influenced by the West Point leadership culture. GE execs, in fact, have studied and adopted West Point lessons, much to the corporation’s benefit.

The company practices what its chief preaches. Currently, GE employs over 10,000 military veterans and, last October, set a goal of hiring an additional 1,000 vets a year for the next five years. To that end, and to feed at least 100,000 former servicemembers into the advanced manufacturing arena by 2015, the industry collaborative Get Skills to Work program focuses on, in the words of a GE press release, “accelerating skills training for U.S. veterans; helping veterans and employers translate military skills to advanced manufacturing jobs; and empowering employers with tools to recruit, onboard and mentor veterans.”

A veteran’s portal to the GSTW program is online. The multi-layered and comprehensive website contains program registration and candidate assessment pages, as well as information about translating already mastered military education and skills under specific Military Occupational Codes into industry-recognized and coveted “digital badges.” A schedule of GSTW-affiliated veterans job fairs is posted on the site, too, as is information about manufacturing industry educational opportunities. Would-be employers of veterans are also solicited on the Get Skills to Work website.

According to GE, the relationship between military veterans and the advanced manufacturing industry is, and will continue to be, a mutually beneficial and symbiotic one. As stated on one GSTW web page, “veterans exiting (the) military are in need of new careers” and the industry is in need of as many as 600,000 new workers. As the old saying goes, it’s a win-win.

During the Legion's 95th National Convention in Houston, GE will be participating in the Hiring Our Heroes Transition & Benefits Career Fair, Aug. 27, and the Employment Transition Workshop, Aug. 26-27. Learn more about American Legion's career-building events during National Convention here.

Register for the career fair and employment workshop: