The U.S. Department of Transportation is launching a new initiative that seeks to employ veterans in the rail industry.

During a recent conference call with reporters, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that his department was introducing a plan to add 5,000 new rail positions for returning members of the military.He said the knowledge that veterans had gained during their time in the service would be a major asset to companies in the sector.

According to industry insiders, there is likely to be a major shortage of workers over the next few years, resulting in added demand.

"Today, roughly 23 percent of the railroad workforce is eligible to retire by 2015," Ed Hamberger, president of the Association of American Railroads, told CNN.

Brad Cooper, executive director the White House's Joining Forces Initiative, said rail companies were aware of the benefits when it came to hiring veterans and that the government was "appreciative" of the employment plans.

According to the initiative's official site, Joining Forces seeks to encourage all sectors to increase the jobs available to veterans and their family members.

Content provided by executive search organization, MRINetwork.

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