The White House on Tuesday offered more details on its latest challenge to American companies to hire 435,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.
Speaking from the East Room of the White House before a gathering of veterans, active duty troops, spouses and business leaders, President Obama said employment is part of "our sacred obligation" to those who have served.
Obama said veterans are not getting the jobs for which they're qualified while the economy continues to recover. That is particularly so for Post-9/11 veterans, and for the past two years First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, have worked with companies to open more doors to veterans and spouses of men and women still serving.
The First Lady announced significant employment programs and commitments by several large companies, including USAA, the insurance giant that caters to military members, veterans and t heir families, UPS, Deloitte LLP and the International Franchise Association.
Mrs. Obama said USAA's new hiring goal looks to have 30 percent of new hires be veterans or a spouse. The White House said 25 percent of the company's new hires typically are veterans or military spouses.
At USAA, one out of every four new employees we hire is a veteran or military spouse. Going forward, USAA has set an even higher internal hiring goal of 30 percent of new hires will be a veteran or a military spouse.
Deloitte, the audit, financial advisory, tax and consulting corporation, will increase its jobs training and assistance program with additional transition assistance workshops, open houses and a new education series at Deloitte University, The Leadership Center, focusing on assessment, mentoring, networking, personal branding, and career coaching.
UPS has committed to hiring more than 25,000 vets over the next five years and also pledged more than 25,000 employee volunteer hours to veterans and veterans' service organizations.
The International Franchise Association, which Mrs. Obama said has helped more than 4,300 veterans become franchise business owners since 2011, has pledged to hire 80,000 vets and military spouses through by the end of 2014 through its 1,200 affiliate companies. The IFA also says it will hire 5,000 Wounded Warriors as part of its commitment.
The White House said IFA has been assisting veterans gain franchise businesses since the of the Persian Gulf War; more than 64,000 vets and spouses have become franchise owners through IFA's program since 1991.
The employment commitments announced Tuesday are in addition to those detailed on Monday just before business leaders, veterans and Defense Department officials sat down for a series of roundtable discussions on finding more solutions to veteran unemployment.
Blackstone Group, a multinational private equity, investment banking, and asset management corporation, announced Monday it would hire 50,000 of veterans by 2019, while retail giant Walmart reiterated its pledge to hire any honorably discharged veteran who applies for a job within 12 months of separating from the service. It is also committed to hiring 100,000 veterans over the next five years.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a statement released following the White House announcement, praised the companies who hired nearly triple the 100,000 veterans and military spouses established of the Joining Forces initiative goal when it was established in 2011. He also welcomed the higher goal announced by the White House.
"I welcome the commitment of businesses to hire or train an additional 435,000 individuals over the next five years, and am committed to ensuring that our service members transitioning to civilian life and our military spouses have the support they richly deserve when it comes to finding a job, pursuing an education, or starting a business," he said.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki echoed the President's remark that no veteran who fought for the country should have to fight for a job back home.
"Veterans make great leaders who possess the skills, team work and dedication to help businesses grow and succeed," Shinseki said in a statement. "We have made progress to expand veteran hiring, by partnering with the First Lady's Joining Forces Initiative and teaming up with the private sector, but more work remains."
Mrs. Obama made the same point in her closing remarks.
"We know today is not the finish line. Today is simply just a mile marker. We're not going to stop until every single veteran or mil spouse out searching for a job has found one. These men and women stood up for us again and again and again. The question is, will we do the same for them? Everything we've seen the past two years gives me the confidence to say the answer is 'absolutely yes.'"
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