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First things first: Go thank a veteran. Don’t wait for a holiday to come around before you shake their hand. Do it on a daily basis. Whether you meet a you meet a retiree in the grocery store or a millennial on the disc golf course, thank them. Though, if you ask me, the best way to thank a veteran is by giving him or her a STEM job.

The Employer’s Responsibility

If you’re a company, especially if you’re tied to the manufacturing, transportation, and logistics field, and you aren’t looking at veterans, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Everywhere you turn, you read stories on the ever-increasing skills gap that’s occurring in the industry. With the rapidly retiring baby boomer generation, we are seeing more and more STEM jobs going unfilled.

Thankfully, companies like PwC are making a change in their recruiting process. They are stepping up their recruiting of new college grads, not just people with STEM degrees, and have focused on veterans who plan on leaving the military for private-sector STEM jobs. But what really sets them apart is that they are taking the time to train them. They see the huge benefit of hiring someone for their determination and character (traits that our military vets are famous for) and filling their own skill gaps by providing the training they need.

Stem jobs vet infographic

We Need A Change Our Focus On The Real Issue

That being said, we can not just stop with the skill gap burden on employers and you can not blame trade deals for losing jobs to other countries. The focus needs to be on education. For some reason manufacturing, as well as the issue of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure (that is a story for another day), has been deemed “not sexy.” Can I just, for the record, say that is the most ridiculous statement that I have ever heard?

The manufacturing industry is the embodiment of what our nation was founded on. We are a nation of go-getters. We see an issue and innovate until we have a solution. We are makers. This is what manufacturing is. But, for some reason, we have this idea that the manufacturing industry is made up of a bunch of Duck Dynasty rejects that sit on an assembly line bored out of their minds. This is what needs to change. We need a major rebranding strategy to shine a light on the heart of manufacturing. This needs to be a focus on a wide scale all the way down to middle school. Supporting Manufacturing Day and other STEM career awareness programs and increasing intern programs that highlight manufacturing and help build interest in STEM jobs is a great starting point.

STEM jobs infographic

The bigger, more obvious issue, is that we need to realize that we know more than we think we do. The problem is we don’t really know how to communicate it to our potential employers. This is true for a majority of Americans but especially true for our veterans. A large majority of these men and women spend at least four years completely immersed in a fully realized, well oiled, logistics machine. The glaring issue is that we focus too much on the specifics of the day to day tasks that occur on the job that we don’t see what was happening from a 10,000-foot view.

I experienced this personally until I sought out a mentor that shook up my view on my own career and she completely change my life. A word of advice to looking for a STEM job, especially veterans, is to seek out a mentor who can be that unbiased third party and put you on the track that gets you in the field you want to be in.

STEM Jobs Are Out There

In the meantime, veterans now have the chance to put real credentials on their resume. In 2011, the military launched the We Cant Wait initiative that focuses on assisting active duty, reserve and guard members ear industry credentials in their field to help ease the transition when they enter the private sector. In the material handling industry, for example, service members have the opportunity to earn the Certified Logistics Associate (CLA) and Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) credentials which are offered by the nationwide Manufacturing Skill Standards Council. Those credentials help military personnel understand how their skills translate to civilian careers.

This isn’t something that will be fixed overnight, but if we, as Americans, can come together to focus on the real issues at hand (like a lack of education and an incorrect view of the manufacturing industry) instead of listening to pandering politicians that focus on poor trade deals, we can make a significant dent in this skill gap that is plaguing our country.