Siemens Discovers Hiring Vets Is 'Good For Business'

Hundreds of thousands of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are looking for work. President Obama signed legislation meant to change that on Monday. The new law will give businesses tax credits for hiring vets.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down. That means more troops will be coming home. Jobs are tough to find these days for anyone, but especially for veterans. Yesterday President Obama signed into law a plan meant to get more vets hired. NPR's Rachel Martin has more.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: The unemployment rate for veterans is around 12 percent - that's close to four points higher than for everyone else. President Obama says it's time to do something about it.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For businesses out there, if you are hiring, hire a veteran. It's the right thing to do for you, it's the right thing to do for them, and it's the right thing to do for our economy.

MARTIN: The new law is called the Returning Heroes Tax Credit. Businesses that hire unemployed veterans can get a tax credit of up to $5600 per hire - the credit goes up for hiring veterans who were injured on duty. Mr. Obama said the skills veterans have learned over multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, should make them top candidates for jobs back home.

OBAMA: If they can manage convoys moving tons of equipment over dangerous terrain, they can manage a company's supply chain. If they can track millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, they can balance the books of any company here in the United States.

MARTIN: But sometimes it's hard for businesses to understand the value of those skills.

ERIC SPIEGEL: They don't fit neatly into the business world, there's not a one to one match.

MARTIN: That's Eric Spiegel. He's the CEO of Siemens Corporation.

SPIEGEL: Yes, they have good leadership skills, yes, they have some technical skills, you know, yes, they've got years of experience, but it's not in a business environment for most of them.

MARTIN: Which is in part, says Spiegel, why vets have had such a hard time finding work. Earlier this year, Siemens promised to fill 10 percent of its job openings with veterans. The program was so successful, they bumped that number up to 15 percent. Again, CEO Eric Spiegel.

SPIEGEL: What people are going to find is that this isn't a charity – this is actually good for business.

MARTIN: And in this election season - that's exactly what the White House is banking on.

Rachel Martin, NPR News, Washington.

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