By Dr. David Steel, Executive Vice President & Head of Corporate Affairs, Samsung Electronics America and Carolyn Lee, Executive Director, The Manufacturing Institute
As a company that arose from the ashes of war, Samsung is grateful for the incredible sacrifices made by members of the U.S. military. To show its gratitude, the company has over decades supported important veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion, Fisher House Foundation, the National Military Family Association, Carry the Load and, most recently, the Honor Flight Network.
Our work has taught us that American servicemen and women receive some of the highest-caliber training in the world in problem-solving, critical thinking, team-building and technical work – all skills needed for the advanced manufacturing field.
Now, together with The Manufacturing Institute – the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers – Samsung has been directing its passion for vets to a new realm: helping service members and their families as they transition into their next careers in manufacturing and technology.
As the U.S. races toward a world where 5G enables artificial intelligence and connected devices, we need smart, adaptable workers today to bring our innovations to scale for tomorrow.
When Samsung Electronics began operations in the U.S., America was at the peak of its manufacturing might. Forty years later, the industry remains strong, but a manufacturing workforce shortage is holding manufacturing in the U.S. back from reaching its full potential. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are about 500,000 open jobs in manufacturing right now, and as many as 2.6 million could go unfilled by 2028 unless we take the right steps today to develop the workforce of tomorrow. Meanwhile, 70% of manufacturers report the challenge of finding enough skilled workers as their top business concern.
Yet 200,000 military members transition into the workforce every year, according to the Department of Defense. Unfortunately, many do so with an unclear path to success in the private sector – and hiring managers may not recognize the military experience on a veteran’s resume as a match for their needs.
Samsung and The Manufacturing Institute have given tremendous thought to these challenges, and we know that veterans are valuable, capable employees with many skills that are a good fit for this critical role in America’s future.
Together, we have determined that more programs are needed that not only provide transitioning service members with in-demand skills and qualifications to prepare them for life after service but also connect them with corporate partners looking for workers with the very advanced specializations and leadership qualities inherent in members of the military.
To fill this gap, Samsung last year joined with the Manufacturing Institute to become the founding sponsor of Heroes MAKE America, an initiative designed to build a mutually beneficial pipeline between the military and manufacturing. The heart of this initiative is a Department of Defense-approved SkillBridge program that provides manufacturers with credentialed and qualified talent from the military community who have the workplace skills needed to fuel America’s industrial resurgence anchored in technology.
Since launching the pilot program at Ft. Riley, Kansas in 2018, we are thrilled to report that Heroes MAKE America has already expanded to four additional bases: Ft. Hood, Texas; Ft. Bragg, North Carolina; Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; and Ft. Benning, Georgia.
At the end of 2019, 275 participants have graduated from the Heroes MAKE America program already and 94% of those graduates have been placed in new positions with an average salary of $65,000. This is a testament to the skill, experience and character of these graduates, and so is the fact that a significant number of them are being placed in supervisory roles.
These men and women are the manufacturing leaders of tomorrow and we are immensely proud of them. Now, we are exploring ways to expand the program further to serve even more from the military community, including military spouses, National Guardsmen and reservists. It’s one of the many ways we are working hard to help secure America’s manufacturing future and support our nation’s heroes. For instance, in addition to our work with veterans on military bases, Samsung and The Manufacturing Institute have advocated for the federal Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act bill, which would increase veteran participation in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) STEM education and research programs.
By jumpstarting the Heroes MAKE America program and advocating for legislation that would help veterans pursue careers in STEM fields, we hope to spur other companies to join us in building a pipeline of advanced manufacturing workers.
The future of manufacturing will be tied to the future of its workforce, and corporate leaders should join us in our efforts to solve this workforce challenge. To learn more about the Heroes program and ways you can join in, visit http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/.
*This Op-Ed was first published online by Industry Week on Jan. 23, 2020.