The U.S. railroad industry will hire more than 5,000 military veterans this year, the Association of American Railroads announced Tuesday, furthering a White House effort to help discharged soldiers, sailors and airmen find jobs in the private sector.
Last year, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, launched the Joining Forces initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to provide support for military families, including employment, education and health care. In the workforce arena, the program promotes the skills of servicemen and woman, and tries to connect them to career opportunities.
AAR President Edward Hamberger made the announcement at a press event in Washington alongside Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Joining Forces Director Bradley Cooper.
Our veterans have the skills and real life experience that we need to help rebuild America. Removing a few of the barriers that stand in the way of their success and connecting them with the employment opportunities that they deserve is the least we can do to thank them for their service," LaHood said in his "Fast Lane" blog.
Freight railroads plan to hire at least 4,700 veterans in 2012, with another 700 to be employed by passenger railroads and rail supply companies, according to the AAR.
About a quarter of the rail industry's current workforce has served in the military. In the past, railroads have worked with the departments of defense and transportation, and the Wounded Warrior Project, to connect veterans with job opportunities. Positions railroads seek to fill include locomotive engineers, conductors, yardmasters, mechanics, carmen, boilerworkers, track workers, welders, signal workers, crew dispatchers, telecommunications installers, as well as management positions.
Industry officials say veterans' technical, leadership, and teamwork skills, as well as experience operating in difficult environments, make them well suited for the railroad industry.
Last year, Class I railroads launched major hiring campaigns to deal with a boom in freight business and significant attrition from retirements. The nation's seven major freight railroads expect to hire more than 15,000 new and replacement workers in 2012. Railroads are hiring workers at a rapid pace, and expanding their networks, even as the overall economy remains sluggish and the unemployment rate has stagnated at 8.2 percent because volumes in most commodity segments are running strong.
CSX Corp., which operates a major rail network in the eastern half of the country, said Wednesday it is almost halfway to meeting its pledge of hiring about 1,000 veterans this year. The company provides a military-friendly work environment by providing extended salary and benefits to National Guard and Reserve members called up to active duty.
Last year, BNSF Railway hired 1,300 veterans, Chief Marketing Officer John Lanigan said at a June 25 seminar on export promotion in Chicago.
In June, the Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs, launched a new Web portal, the Veterans Transportation Career Center
, aimed at helping veterans find transportation jobs and helping transportation companies find qualified veterans. - Eric Kulisch