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Wal-Mart hires vets: Cure for vet unemployment or PR stunt? (+video)

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"I think that Wal-Mart has a tremendous opportunity to leverage operational skills that today's veterans bring," said Sean Collins, director of G.I. Jobs, a magazine and web site that highlight employment, education and small business opportunities for veterans.

Wal-Mart said First Lady Michelle Obama, who spearheaded a White House drive to encourage businesses to hire veterans, has expressed interest in working with Wal-Mart and with the rest of the business community on this initiative.

In the next several weeks, Simon said the White House will meet with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and major U.S. employers to encourage businesses to make commitments to train and employ American's returning veterans. The first lady on Tuesday called Wal-Mart's announcement "historic."

"We all believe that no one who serves our country should have to fight for a job once they return home," she said in a statement. "Wal-Mart is setting a groundbreaking example for the private sector to follow."

In addition to hiring veterans, Wal-Mart plans to spend $50 billion to buy more products made in the U.S. over the next 10 years. According to data from Wal-Mart's suppliers, items that are made, sourced, or grown in the U.S. account for about two-thirds of the company's current spending on products for its U.S. business.

Wal-Mart said that it plans to focus on buying more in areas such as sporting goods, fashion basics, storage products, games and paper products. The commitment comes as economics are changing for making goods overseas: Labor costs are rising in Asia, while oil and transportation costs are high and increasingly uncertain.

But even with the additional $5 billion that Wal-Mart plans to spend each year — the breakdown of $50 billion over 10 years — the amount that the company will spend each year on buying goods in the U.S. will only account for 2 percent of its total spending in the country. In the fiscal year that ended in January 2012, Wal-Mart bought $238.8 billion in goods for its U.S. stores.

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