There are some 2.8 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These brave men and women served their country on the battlefield. Along the way, they learned skills that are hugely advantageous to civilian employers, among them: leadership, change management, how to motivate their comrades, how to work as a team, ability to work under pressure and especially their safety conscious attitude.
Despite their vast and varied experience, many veterans struggle to reintegrate into civilian life when they come home. Unemployment among veterans has been persistently high. In 2013, it was nine percent among veterans who have served since 2001, compared with about seven percent among nonveterans. And among veterans 18-24 years old, unemployment was more than 21 percent last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As we honor our veterans today, I want to let our returning veterans know that the fuel and petrochemical industries are actively seeking them for well-paying careers. We believe the skills our veterans learn on the battlefield translate to work in our industries. This year, nearly a quarter of all hourly hires in our industry were military veterans, and I want this percentage to increase.
AFPM recently launched a website, workforce.afpm.org, to provide information about jobs in our industries, and to connect job seekers to our member companies’ career sites.
The website provides a place for veterans to learn about the huge variety of jobs in our industries—from electricians to welders to crane operators. We particularly need veterans to join us because it’s projected that over the next five to 10 years, 800,000 workers will retire, and our industries’ worker deficit will be between one and two million people. This is the result of a dramatic increase in domestic energy production driven by the shale boom—benefitting our economy and our national security.
For example, the number of welders, an essential job in the energy industry, has declined over the last three decades. Between 1988 and 2012, the number of trained welders in the United States dropped by more than 37 percent to less than 360,000. By 2020, it’s predicted that the shortage of welders will be nearly 300,000 and the average age of a U.S. welder is 55. Yet at $56,904, today’s average wage for a welder is more than the average wage for 25-34 year olds with bachelor’s degrees, which is $46,900.
For a number of the careers in which we are seeking workers, a college education is not required—our industries often don’t require an expensive, four-year degree, and the wages we offer are high. Many of our member companies that need workers offer training and financial aid for continuing education. The average annual salary in the refining industry is $111,542, and it is $88,800 in the chemical industry. By comparison, the average wage across all industries is just $62,063.
Madison Bailey is just one example of many success stories. Madison served our country in the Military Police for the U.S. Army, including a tour in Baghdad. At the beginning of this year, Madison was hired as an operator in the gas plant unit at the Phillips 66 Wood River in Illinois. I’m not surprised to hear she is excelling in her position and has shown clear leadership skills in training and on the unit.
It is my hope that through AFPM’s workforce website, we can connect those brave men and women interested in our industries to available, high-paying jobs that will turn into lifelong careers.