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Originally published February 13, 2012 at 3:53 AM | Page modified February 14, 2012 at 7:00 AM

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GE to hire 5,000 veterans over next 5 years

General Electric Co. plans to hire 5,000 veterans over the next five years and invest $580 million to expand its aviation business.

The Associated Press

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WASHINGTON —

General Electric Co. plans to hire 5,000 veterans over the next five years and invest $580 million to expand its aviation business.

The announcements Monday were part of a four-day event that the global conglomerate is hosting with partners in Washington, D.C., that focuses on issues such as manufacturing and job creation in America.

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt heads up President Obama's 27-member jobs council, which also includes AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AOL co-founder Steve Case and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

GE said Monday that its "Hiring Our Heroes" partnership will help match veterans with jobs. The company, whose products range from jet engines to lightbulbs, will also team with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to sponsor 400 veterans' job fairs this year. GE currently employs more than 10,000 veterans and has about 100 U.S. employee reservists serving overseas.

In addition, its aviation unit will add more than 400 new manufacturing jobs and open plants in Ellisville, Miss., Auburn, Ala., and Dayton, Ohio, next year. GE said that the new plants are part of its efforts to create or rebuild 16 facilities and more than 12,000 new jobs. The company started production on its first new appliance line in more than 50 years last week at Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky.

The company expects to double its number of engineering interns to more than 5,000. The move is part of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness initiative to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year in the U.S. GE says this often leads to jobs, as 80 percent of its full-time engineers have been hired from the internship program. It has more than 19,000 engineers on staff.

It also plans pilot programs to reduce health care costs in Louisville, Ky., and Erie, Pa. Those programs are an expansion of efforts that began in 2009 in the greater Cincinnati area that led to more than 100 new primary care centers, fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions and decreased health care costs per GE employee after two years.

GE, which is based in Fairfield, Conn., also plans to open several manufacturing training centers in locations such as Houston and Cincinnati to help build job skills.

Joseph Sharpe, director of the economic division of the American Legion in Washington, D.C., said health insurer Humana Inc., Prudential, Home Depot Inc., Target and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are among several businesses that are seeking to hire veterans. Several large companies have established veterans' affairs offices to recruit and train veterans and hire them or help them find jobs at other companies, Sharpe said.

Sharpe said the Labor Department during the administration of President George W. Bush first began working with the American Legion to organize job fairs for veterans, and the Obama administration has followed through.

"This is something that's been building for the last eight years," Sharpe said.

The results have been encouraging as unemployment rates among veterans fall. For men, unemployment is about 7.7 percent, down from more than 12 percent, he said. And joblessness among female vets has fallen to a still-high 17 percent from more than 20 percent, he said.

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