Weather Updates

Gary Sinise on supporting our nation’s heroes & addressing the skills gap

Gary Sinise inaugural Get Skills To Work certificaticeremony Cincinnati State March 2013.

Gary Sinise at the inaugural Get Skills To Work certification ceremony at Cincinnati State in March 2013.

storyidforme: 56461083
tmspicid: 20664619
fileheaderid: 9617133

Updated: October 24, 2013 3:51PM

It was great to be back in my hometown this past week to join GE and other partners for a special announcement that will impact our nation’s heroes, bolster the talent pipeline and enhance U.S. manufacturing and America’s competitiveness.

I’m proud to say that GE — in partnership with the State of Illinois, The Manufacturing Institute, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and Harper College — announced Illinois is the first state to join the Get Skills to Work (GSTW) coalition, dedicated to closing the skills gap and supporting veterans as they transition to careers in advanced manufacturing.

I first got involved with GSTW last year. The program builds on the mission of the Gary Sinise Foundation, to serve the nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need. By creating and supporting programs designed to entertain, educate, inspire, strengthen and build communities, the foundation is committed to ensuring that the sacrifices of our brave men and women are never forgotten.

I believe by working together and expanding our coalition, we’ll impact veterans nationwide. Through this new Illinois partnership, GSTW helps local veterans pursue advanced manufacturing jobs by providing targeted training and skills certifications. To ensure the training meets the immediate needs of local manufacturers, employers will work directly with the state’s community colleges to provide quality education grounded in industry-based, in-demand certifications.

I’m really proud to partner with companies that are stepping up to help our heroes. Today, 82 percent of manufacturers report that they cannot find job applicants with the necessary skills to fill open advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States. At the same time, 1 million veterans are expected to transition into civilian careers over the next five years. These veterans represent a huge opportunity for the U.S. economy, and the GSTW program aims to help create new futures for those who worked to make ours better.

While playing Lieutenant Dan certainly helped me understand some of the challenges that returning veterans face, my concern for veterans predates “Forrest Gump” by more than a decade. In fact, I’ve been supporting America’s servicemen and women for more than 30 years — since the early ’80s, when I supported Vietnam veterans groups and created Vets Night, a program offering free dinners and performances to veterans at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. I believe we can keep our country strong by taking care of those who serve, and I invite you to support programs like GSTW to help make a difference in our heroes’ lives, support the Illinois manufacturing industry and help bolster the U.S. economy.

For more information and to support GTSW, visit

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.