Continuing the recent increase in veteran employment rates, a coalition of companies in the construction industry have partnered with Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's support initiative for veterans entering life after service. Several companies have already been vocally supportive of the effort, as the construction industry is expected to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the country over the next dozen years.

A new jobs pledge
Stars and Stripes reported that the first lady led a discussion with representatives from the construction industry Feb. 10 where a variety of companies pledged to hire over 100,000 veterans by 2019. More than 100 companies have already attached their names to the initiative. Businesses range from nationally recognized brands like Jacobs Engineering to local firms in need of specialized labor.

"[Servicemembers] have built cities in the middle of deserts halfway around the world," Obama told the conference. "They've built schools in remote villages. They've repaired complex machinery in combat zones in the middle of the night. In short, our troops have taken on some of the most challenging projects in some of the most inhospitable places under some of the toughest deadlines and constraints."

The hiring drive is part of the White House's "Joining Forces" initiative, which seeks to provide all-purpose support for veterans. The organization's website indicates that the advocacy arm of the group seeks to "inspire, educate and spark action from all sectors of society."

Both Obama and Biden helped launch Joining Forces in 2011.

Decreasing numbers, increasing hope
The jobs pledge comes at a time when the veteran unemployment rate is already falling. The Washington Post reported that the unemployment rate for veterans has been falling ever since a spike in January 2012. A smaller sample size has traditionally led to more dramatic increases and decreases of the veteran unemployment rate compared to the national average, but a steady downward progression is good news. An extra 100,000 jobs will do much to lower that rate even further.

Veterans have faced certain employment-related obstacles in recent years from speed bumps in gaining accreditation for their military skills for use in the private sector. The Joining Forces initiative will also seek to help veterans on that front.

"Many of the skills and abilities gained during military training and service are highly transferable to the skills we require to successfully serve our clients around the world," Lori Sundberg, senior vice president of human resources at Jacobs, told Stars and Stripes.