On Feb. 10, 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez announced that the construction industry has pledged to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years. It is part of the Joining Forces Initiative, led by Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden, intended to establish nongovernment support for returning troops.


The initiative is timely. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report (“Industry employment and output projections to 2022,” published in the December 2013 Monthly Labor Review) shows the construction industry will gain 2.6 million jobs by 2022. It will be the fastest growing industry among goods-producing sectors.


That growth, combined with the wave of baby boomer retirements that the industry expects, means that skilled and experienced workers will be in high demand. Construction Labor Market Analyzers’ 20/20 Foresight Report shows there will be a nationwide shortage of 2.7 million skilled craft workers by 2017. Veterans could help fill this shortfall.


“Many of these veterans have technical skills that are directly relevant to the construction industry. And plenty of veterans who don’t have those skills are eager to learn them. And with the right training, we know they have the discipline, we know they have the determination that is necessary to succeed in all kinds of construction jobs,” the first lady said in her initiative announcement speech.


“The construction industry is currently one of fastest-growing industries in America, and companies … are desperate for highly trained workers from welders to pipefitters, to engineers, to electricians and more. And these are good jobs with good salaries,” she continued.


More than 100 companies are involved in the initiative, including Helmets to Hardhats, which includes support from the National Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Helmets to Hardhats has been working to employ returning veterans since 2002, and this initiative is another win for the organization.


For more on the Joining Forces Initiative, including how to make a pledge, visit www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces.