By Samuel Greengard
Over the last few years, many military veterans have found it extremely difficult to land jobs in the private sector. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has consistently reported higher unemployment rates among vets than among the general population.
The problem? In many cases, veterans’ military skills and training don’t match the fast-changing requirements of employers, including IT departments.
To help address the problem, the White House and a number of IT companies, led by Cisco, launched the first IT Training and Certification Program in April 2013. The program, which currently includes more than 80 companies, fast-tracks military personnel with IT experience to in-demand jobs by providing free and reduced-cost access to IT training and certification exams and career-matching opportunities. It is powered by an online talent exchange platform, US IT Pipeline, developed by Futures with support from Cisco.
The Cisco Veteran’s Program provides vets with additional tools to help them transition into the civilian workforce. So far, the program has resulted in more than 28,000 veterans getting hired and nearly 33,000 U.S. military personnel gaining advanced IT skills.
Joe Fucello, vice president of client services for Futures, believes the program is critical. “The transition process from service member to civilian life is a very stressful process,” he says. “This program has the potential to help many service members transition into high-paying civilian technology jobs.”
One veteran who has benefited from the program is Andrew Marsh, a former First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. In early 2013, he decided to transition out of the military and look for work in the information technology field.
Although Marsh had gained experience as a communications officer in the Marines, the “IT skills didn’t translate directly into the civilian world,” he says. “It wasn’t possible to simply step into a job in the private sector. I didn’t have the necessary certifications.”
When Marsh learned about the program, he enrolled, and a few months later, he had earned three certifications: a Cisco CCNA, Cisco Certified Network Associate and a NetApp Certified Storage Associate. The certifications led to a consulting position with Reston, Va.-based PGTEK.
In the military, Marsh estimates that he used managerial skills over technical skills by a 60-40 ratio, but he has now flipped the equation. He specializes in geospatial imagery and data center projects.
“I was able to complete the coursework while I was still in the military because of the virtual nature of the instruction,” he explains. “The program led directly to my current job.”
Marsh says that many employers are hesitant to hire veterans because of concerns over skill sets. “It’s often an uphill battle explaining the experience and knowledge you have from the military,” he acknowledges. However, many of the technical and IT skills learned—along with qualities such as dedication, responsibility and teamwork—translate into veterans becoming high-value employees.
“The ability to obtain certifications quickly and gain specific knowledge and expertise is a boon to both veterans and employers,” Marsh concludes. “It is making a very real difference.”
Photo by Cpl. James Gulliver