South Court Auditorium
11:11 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Good morning. (Applause.) Good morning, everyone. Thanks so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Please, sit, rest. Because we want you to do a lot of work today, so we don’t want you to wear yourselves out.
It is a true pleasure to be here today. I want to start by thanking Sergeant Hall for that very kind introduction, but, more importantly, for his outstanding service to this country. I also want to recognize Gene Sperling for his excellent work on this issue here at the White House.
And of course, I want to thank John Chambers and everyone at Cisco for their extraordinary leadership to create this new IT Training and Certification Program. So let’s just take a moment to give them a round of applause for their excellent work. Very proud, very proud. (Applause.) This is the kind of leadership that is going to make the world of difference to hundreds of thousands of veterans and military families across this country.
And finally, I want to thank all of you for taking the time. This is a big commitment on the part of everyone in this room, to work on this issue. Because, as you all know, we’re here today to address one of the most pressing issues we face -- not just for our veterans and our military families, but for our economy and for the future of our country.
You all know the numbers. As John said, in the coming years, more than one million servicemembers will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning to civilian life. And that’s on top of the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses already out there looking for work.
These folks, as you have heard, you have seen, you will continue to see -- they are some of the most highly skilled, best-trained, hardest-working, diligent, dedicated, proud, noble, smart people that we have in this country. And believe me, I have met with hundreds of them in the course of my service as First Lady, and it has been one of the greatest privileges -- not just to work with the men and women in uniform, but with their family members who are just as outstanding.
They do everything. They are medics and engineers, they're drivers, welders. They’re folks like Sergeant Hall, with years of experience at the highest levels of our military. And they are eminently qualified to do the very jobs that employers across this country are desperate to fill.
But too often, because of red tape, or outdated rules, or simple lack of coordination, our men and women in uniform come home only to find that the training and experience they’ve gotten during their time in uniform simply doesn’t count. Or they discover that the credits that they’ve earned in military courses don’t actually transfer when they enroll in college, so they’re turned away from jobs that they’re more than qualified to do. Or they wind up paying to do the same coursework over again, and all that training, all that education, all that expertise that they have devoted their lives to attain, it all goes to waste.
And this is unfair to the men and women who have served this country so bravely. They deserve a fair shot at a good job when they come home. But it’s also unfair to their families who have sacrificed probably more in some instances so that these men and women can do their job. And they deserve some financial security once they return to civilian life.
It is also unfair to this country, because when we don’t take advantage of the skills and talents of our veterans and military spouses, jobs go unfilled and, far worse, human potential goes untapped. And that’s bad for our economy, as we all know.
Now fortunately, in recent months we’ve seen leaders across this country starting to solve this problem. We have seen dozens of governors and state legislators passing laws that clear away all the red tape so that veterans and military spouses can get the licenses they need for the jobs they’re qualified for. And that’s really a big deal. It’s not a small task.
But the truth is that changing our laws is truly just the beginning. Because even the best laws in the world won’t make a difference until companies are actually making those job offers, schools are accepting those credits, and our veterans and military spouses are actually collecting those paychecks that they need to take care of their families.
So at the end of the day, whether or not we solve this problem in so many ways is up to the men and women in this room. That’s why we’ve invited you to the White House today to participate in these roundtables.
So today, I hope that you will start working together to figure out where the gaps are and how we can work together to close those gaps. If you have a program or a curriculum that’s working at your school or your hospital or your company, we really want you to share the information here. Tell people about it. Be proud of it. Share your materials so that others can replicate what you’re doing in communities across this country. Because we have to be prepared to accept our military members, our veterans and servicemembers wherever they land in this country after their service.
If you think there are courses or certifications that our military should be offering to better prepare members to transition, or you think they need to revise what they’re currently offering to make it more relevant, don’t be shy. Speak up. Let them know. They're used to getting good, strong feedback. (Laughter.) They're tough.
We have representatives from the Department of Defense and across the federal government who have come here today for exactly that reason –- because they want to hear your thoughts and they want to learn, and grow, and develop and make sure that we’re all working together.
In short, today is your chance to make the connections, form the partnerships that our veterans and military families need and deserve. And remember, it was roundtables like these that led to the creation of the IT Training and Certification Partnership that we are announcing today. It was this kind of work that led to this initiative. And I hope you all will use this partnership as a model, because it is an outstanding example of what can happen when industries come together with our armed forces on behalf of our veterans.
As you’ve heard, this new partnership will provide up to 161,000 servicemembers with the chance to gain the certifications they need for 12 different high-demand, high-paying technology careers -– everything from IT security analysts to computer programmers to quality assurance engineers.
And that’s exactly the kind of impact that we’re aiming for through these conversations today. And I also just want to say that this isn’t going to be a one-and-done kind of event. This is the beginning. We have directed federal agencies to host a series of follow-up meetings with the goal of creating partnerships in all four of the areas that we’re focusing on today.
Again, this is just the beginning. Because once we’ve made it easier for veterans and military spouses to get the jobs they deserve, we need to make sure that companies are actually creating those jobs. And that’s why tomorrow, here at the White House, we will be announcing groundbreaking commitments by companies across this country to hire even more of our veterans and military spouses.
And a thing I will say, because this is a commitment that comes from the top and it comes from our hearts: We are not going to stop until all of our veterans and all of our military families have good jobs -- the good jobs they deserve, the good jobs that they've earned, jobs that will help them build their careers and create a better future for their children.
We're not going to stop. Because in the end, that’s really what this is all about. In the end, if we keep on working together and building these public-private partnerships, then I know that we’ll be able to serve our veterans and military families as well as they have served this country. And that's what it's all about.
We are so proud of them, but we're also proud of the work that our companies have done, the way people have been stepping up without question. It's going to take a little more work because we've got millions of people to employ, but I am confident that these kind of roundtables will move the ball forward.
So I thank you all again, and I wish you good luck and hard work today as we continue the work of utilizing the resources of our military and their families. Thank you all. God bless. Good luck. (Applause.)
11:21 A.M. EDT