By Michelle Obama and Jill Biden
FORTUNE -- Two years ago, we launched Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to rally all Americans to support our veterans and military families. We did this for two simple reasons: because we were both awed by the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day to protect our values and keep us safe. We were also awed by their families, the spouses and children who serve right along with them, enduring deployment after deployment with grace and resolve.
As we traveled the country visiting bases and military communities, everywhere we went, we heard from veterans who had years of training and experience in the military -- leading dozens, even hundreds of their peers; operating some of the most advanced technology; and solving complex problems under the most extreme conditions imaginable. But when they returned home, they struggled to find decent jobs. We met military spouses who'd spent decades moving from base to base every couple of years and struggled to maintain their careers. As the months passed, we saw that the unemployment rate for our most recent veterans remained far too high above the national average.
These men and women are some of the highest-skilled, best-trained, hardest-working people in this country. They are medics and engineers, drivers and welders, computer technicians and machinists. They are eager to work and determined to keep on serving this country. All they need is a chance.
But the challenge of giving them that chance is only becoming more urgent. In the coming years, more than a million servicemembers will be hanging up their uniforms and transitioning to civilian life. That's on top of the hundreds of thousands of veterans and military spouses already out there looking for work.
MORE FROM FORTUNE: Blackstone to hire 50,000 vets
That's why, back in August of 2011, President Obama challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. And over the past two years, businesses across America have answered that call. By last August, they had already filled 125,000 jobs, with commitments to hire 250,000 more. And today, we are proud to announce that America's businesses have hired or trained 290,000 veterans and military spouses, almost triple the original goal. In addition, companies like Wal-Mart, UPS, Home Depot, the Blackstone Group, Target, and McDonald's have committed to hire or train another 435,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.
So we're making real progress. We're encouraged that the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans dropped by 2.2% in 2012. But it is still too high; because as long as any veteran or military spouse who needs a job is unable to find one, then we still have work to do.
That's why, in his budget, President Obama proposed a permanent extension of the tax credits he signed into law for businesses that hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors. We've also been working with governors and state legislators to revamp state laws to give our troops credit for the skills they've learned in the military when they apply for professional licenses and credentials here at home. In addition, we've created new partnerships between the armed forces and the manufacturing and information technology industries to ensure that our servicemembers are trained for good jobs.
But ultimately, it's up to our companies to actually hire veterans for these jobs. So today, we need business leaders across this country to ask themselves, "What can my company do for these men and women who have served our country so bravely?" If you own a small business, can you commit to hiring a few veterans -- or even just one? If you own a larger company, can you hire a few hundred -- or a few thousand? Can you retrain the veterans already in your workforce so they can grow within your company? Can you team up with other businesses to hire the veterans in your communities?
This is an all-hands-on-deck issue, and we cannot rest until every single veteran and military spouse who is searching for a job has found one. These men and women have sacrificed so much for all of us. Now is the time for all of us to come together to serve them as well as they have served this country.
Michelle Obama is First Lady of the U.S., and Dr. Jill Biden is Second Lady of the U.S.
Maybe the former white collar defense lawyer will be able to set aside her past connections to the corporate world and the possibility of future alliances. But the president could have picked someone who lacked such conflicts.
FORTUNE -- Imagine waking up one morning and reading a speech made by one of your bosses, where you discover just how little he values the projects you've been slaving away at for the MOREEleanor Bloxham, CEO of The Value Alliance - Jan 30, 2013 9:02 AM ET
The presidential candidates ran campaigns that were, in many ways, fueled by divisive politics. Now that it is over, how do we recover?
FORTUNE -- It's over, thank goodness, the election is over. Americans all over the ideological map can, at least, celebrate together that the attack ads, snarky debates, and divisive narratives of this presidential race have come to an end.
The ability to agree on that, or anything, may be MOREShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Nov 8, 2012 1:27 PM ET
Federal agencies will continue to interpret the laws that protect employees very broadly and enforce them very aggressively.
By Jonathan A. Segal
FORTUNE -- Democrats have retained control of the White House and the Senate. Republicans have retained control of the House. So the voters, again, have voted for divided government.
What will it mean for workers and their employers? Much of it depends on how Republicans read and respond to the election MORENov 7, 2012 1:07 PM ET
The candidates have offered starkly differently visions for the nation's future. Here's how some entrepreneurs are preparing.
By Elaine Pofeldt
FORTUNE – No matter who wins the election, Ted Devine isn't planning any radical moves for his business.
Devine, who is CEO of Insureon, an online commercial insurance agent based in Dallas, Texas that targets businesses with 10 employees or less, says the election will bring more certainty to the business community, MORENov 2, 2012 10:45 AM ET
In many ways, Mitt Romney was the quintessential Harvard Business School student, and alum. So why are the current crop of Harvard MBA candidates siding with his opponent? By John A. ByrneSep 21, 2012 9:09 AM ET
Despite claims from the Romney campaign that the candidate's energy plan will create 3 million jobs, the supporting evidence doesn't add up.
By Deena Shanker
FORTUNE -- With this election's sharp focus on jobs and the economy, both candidates are trying to show they can marry the goals of energy independence with employment and national economic growth.
Governor Mitt Romney says he will create more than 3 million jobs by easing restrictions MORESep 20, 2012 8:52 AM ET
The culture of stagnation in Congress is creeping into the business world. What will it take to get unstuck as America moves towards the fiscal cliff?
FORTUNE -- Most good decision-making practices grind to a halt during an election year.
President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are both taking to the podium, talking up job creation and business recovery. Yet in the short term, government leaders are keeping employees MOREShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Aug 23, 2012 11:58 AM ET
Here are five crucial leadership skills for the most powerful CEO of all -- the U.S. President.
By John Ryan
FORTUNE -- With the U.S. presidential election fast approaching, we will hear a lot from pundits and partisans over the next few months, not to mention President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney themselves, about how one candidate's leadership skills are superior to his opponent's.
You can take their word for it -- MOREAug 14, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Being very good at one job (like delivering well-written speeches from a teleprompter) doesn't necessarily make you very good at the next (like leading the free world). By Jack and Suzy WelchApr 18, 2012 10:43 AM ET
|Microsoft unveils new Xbox One game console|
|The Obamacare myth about small business|
|Judge rules Airbnb illegal in New York City|
|Make $30 an hour, no bachelor's degree required|
|Herbalife hires new auditors|