Veterans Hiring and Training Initiative Surpasses Original Goals

First lady Michelle Obama First lady Michelle Obama Evan Vucci/AP

First Lady Michelle Obama announced Tuesday that a veterans training and hiring program had significantly exceeded its original goals.

During a White House ceremony, Obama said that the Joining Forces Initiative had encouraged and challenged businesses to hire or train 290,000 veterans and spouses. She said the number was nearly three times higher than the original 2011 goal of 100,000, and with eight months to spare.

“This is about giving these men and women a source of identity and purpose,” Obama said. “It’s about providing thousands of families with financial security, and giving our veterans and military spouses the confidence that they can provide a better future for their children.”

Obama and Jill Biden launched the Joining Forces Initiative in 2011 to encourage education, employment and health programs for military personnel and their families.

Tuesday’s news came alongside a column published in Fortune Magazine by Obama and Biden that announced the milestone. They wrote that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans had fallen by 2.2 percent in 2012, but that more work had to be done. The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was at 10.1 percent according to one estimate, with those younger than 25 facing a 29.1 percent unemployment rate.

“In the coming years, more than a million service members will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning to civilian life,” the column stated. “That's on top of the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses already out there looking for work.”

On Tuesday, Obama also said that businesses had collectively committed to train or hire 435,000 veterans and spouses by 2018. In a statement released Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel commended the effort, and said it was an example of how American companies could “benefit greatly from the highly-skilled and hard-working members of our military family.”

The announcement comes as more leaders in Washington gear up to help veterans reuse their skills in the private sector. On Monday, Obama launched the Information Technology Training and Certification Partnership, a public-private program designed to help service members gain industry standard skills for many technology jobs.

Similarly, Rep. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill., introduced the 2013 Troop Talent Act, which would allow money from the Tuition Assistance program and the Post-9-11 G.I. Bill to be used for industry credentials and certifications. 

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