Making the transition from the military to civilian employment can be difficult. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than half of returning, post-9/11 veterans will experience a period of unemployment. Here are four organizations working to help returning service members leverage their skills and training to gain IT employment.
V.E.T.S (Vocation, Education and Training for Service members)
Karen Ross, CEO of executive search and staffing firm Sharp Decisions, started the Vocation, Education and Training for Service members (VETS) program three years ago in response to the ongoing IT talent gap and the high unemployment rate of returning veterans.
Through VETS, Sharp Decisions hires tech-savvy, U.S. armed forces veterans as full-time salaried/benefited employees. It then puts them through an intensive, six-week boot camp-like technology training based on the needs of specific clients. Participants are then deployed to client companies as consultants in squads of three or more, emulating the unit-based culture of the military.
Ross's program aims to train and place vets in quality assurance software testing, project and product management, networking and other mission-critical IT areas. So far, Ross says, she has trained and placed over 100 veterans, and hopes to expand the program to 500 or 600 over the next few years.
"The military is technologically complex, so these veterans have amazing skills; they also have leadership skills, they work exceptionally well as part of a team, they understand and value communication, teamwork, leadership and chain of command. They can adapt quickly to changing conditions, they have great accountability -- it's a perfect match for an IT career. These young men and women should have every advantage when it comes to a job search that their peers do coming out of college -- and it's not just good business sense, it's the right thing to do," says Ross.
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Hiring our Heroes
Hiring our Heroes (HoH) is a nationwide initiative focused on helping veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful employment. The program is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Chamber of Commerce, says Kim Morten, senior manager of communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hiring our Heroes.
Since the program started in March 2011, HoH has held approximately 940 job fairs across the U.S., and those have helped more than 27,000 veterans and military spouses find employment, Morten says. Veterans employment opportunities are varied, but Morten says many companies that partner with HoH are technology focused, including Microsoft.
This year, Microsoft held workshops and training events in conjunction with joint base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, with over 2,000 service members in attendance, Morten says.
"With IT, in particular, there's a need for talent skilled in information systems, security, networking -- and veterans have those skills, along with teamwork, leadership, discipline and the ability to work well under intense pressure. Many times the media will portray returning veterans as 'broken heroes,' but that's not entirely true. They don't want pity, nor do they want to be put on a pedestal. They want the chance to get a good job, doing good work and show what they're worth," says Morten.
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SANS Institute VetSuccess
The SysAdmin, Audit, Networking, Security (SANS) Institute VetSuccess Immersion Academy provides military veterans with advanced training, certifications and connections to land jobs in cybersecurity.
According to the 2015 Global Cybersecurity Status report published by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), 86 percent of the 3,436 business professionals that responded to their survey believe there is a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals. Compare that to the over 300,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. -- estimated to grow to 1 million to 1.5 million globally by 2020 -- and it's clear there's a problem.
The VetsSuccess program was piloted in 2015 as a way to build on the skills and training service members already have and to address the severe shortage of talent in the cybersecurity field, says Jim Michaud, director of HR and business development with the SANS Institute.
"We started with nine Air Force veterans, who took either two or three of our courses and achieved certifications, and we were able to help them land great cybersecurity jobs. The program is free for veterans to participate, and we pay for travel, lodging, the training -- everything. This is a $15,000 to $20,000 investment," Michaud says.
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Armed Forces Construction
Sam Crawford, COO of Armed Forces Construction, uses technology to help veterans find stable employment and build careers, but in a different way. A Vietnam War veteran himself, Crawford is deeply committed to helping his fellow veterans through construction employment, and he uses Ariba Discovery supply chain solution to streamline the process of finding business leads and landing jobs for his construction crews.
Using Ariba Discovery has helped Crawford's firm win more than 100 bids, and he now has crews operating in twelve states and 59 U.S. cities with plans to continue expansion across all 50 states.
"Veterans served with integrity, honor and discipline, and that's what they bring to the workforce. I'm in construction, but using technology to put us together with these jobs helps the veterans I employ give back to the communities and keep taking care of people. What can you do to honor veterans? Start by just saying 'thank you,'" Crawford says.