White House and Tech Firms Team Up to Retrain Vets

By Samuel Greengard

There has been no shortage of news coverage about the hardships veterans face when returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. But behind the barrage of stories about physical injuries and psychological trauma lies another reality: Many vets face significant challenges when it comes to landing a good job. Unemployment rates for these vets have consistently hovered at 10 percent or higher.

Now, however, veterans are getting some help on the job front. On April 29, First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new program, the Information Technology Training and Certification Partnership. The public-private initiative will help service members earn industry-recognized information technology certifications before they leave the military.

The grant program brings together the White House and several tech companies, including Cisco Systems, CompTIA, HP, Microsoft, NetApp, Oracle and SANS Institute.

“This new partnership will provide up to 161,000 service members with the chance to gain the certifications they need for 12 different high-demand, high-paying technology careers … from IT security analysts to computer programmers to quality assurance engineers,” Ms. Obama noted. Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, who heads marketing and business development for the Learning@Cisco organization, describes the initiative as an “effort to leverage the unique skills, experience and qualifications that military personnel hold.”

The program, developed by a Department of Defense Task Force directed by the White House, specifically targets service members who are leaving the military and transitioning into the civilian workforce, as well as military personnel who are in the early and middle stages of their military careers. Members of the service participating in the program will be connected to resources that link them with civilian employers looking to hire by state and region. The partnership aims to generate more than 1.8 million job opportunities by 2020, with an average annual salary of $81,000.

Although many of these military personnel have strong IT skills that are at a level equivalent to their civilian counterparts, few take the steps necessary to earn the civilian IT certifications that are necessary for work in the private sector. The private companies supporting the initiative will provide resources and support—in many cases at no cost to participants—across a wide swath of areas and topics.

The new program will allow service members to partake in a gap analysis of their IT skills and then test for and earn civilian credentials above and beyond those required for their military job. What’s more, during the pilot phase of this program, service members will be allowed to participate in bridge training programs free of cost, if the gap analysis indicates they require additional learning in order to obtain a civilian credential.

The First Lady stated that retraining and hiring vets is the right thing to do, as well as being a wise business decision. At the press conference she noted: “Too often, because of red tape, or outdated rules, or simple lack of coordination, our men and women in uniform come home only to find that the training and experience they’ve gotten during their time in uniform simply doesn’t count.”

Nevertheless, Ms. Obama said ,”They are eminently qualified to do the very jobs that employers across this country are desperate to fill.”


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