US President and wife Michele Obama arrive in Chicago in 2012
US President and wife Michele Obama arrive in Chicago in 2012

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama announced on Monday that more than 100 construction industry companies have committed to hiring more than 100,000 military veterans over the next five years.

Michelle Obama and U.S. Labour Secretary Thomas Perez delivered remarks at the National Symposium on Veterans' Employment in Construction, hosted at the Labour Department.

The event brought together construction industry officials, government leaders and education professionals to highlight hiring commitments throughout the industry, and it addressed employment challenges and opportunities for transitioning service members and veterans.

The first lady called the commitment to veterans "a huge deal," adding, "we did this because we wanted to inspire businesses and organizations across the country to ask themselves one simple question: What more can we do to honour and support our veterans and military families?"

"And today all of you answered that question with this incredibly strong commitment," Obama said.

In his remarks, Perez noted that the Labour Department's latest employment report indicates the private sector has created 8.5 million jobs over the last 47 months. The construction industry showed one of the most dramatic growth rates, he said, adding more jobs in January than in any month since March 2007.

The construction industry is expected to create more than 1.5 million jobs by 2022, Perez said, adding that the industry has long maintained a proven training and employment infrastructure.

"Through apprenticeships, certification and credentialing programs provided by labour unions and individual employers, veterans can translate their skills into in-demand civilian occupations," the secretary said.

"Nearly 8 percent of all registered apprentices are veterans," he added, "while 23 percent of apprentices are active military members learning skills in over 120 occupations ranging from airframe mechanics to firefighters."