When military members leave the service, many struggle to find a job — often having to study for a new degree or certification in order to qualify for a position, all the while not being able to rely on consistent income.
To help solve this problem before it even arises, Microsoft is working with Marines at Camp Pendleton in California (and two other U.S. military bases), offering a 16-week certification program in Information Technology to soldiers planning to leave the service in the near future.
Sergeant Taylor Harris, one of the participants in the Microsoft Systems and Software Academy, told Bob Lawrence of ABC 10 News, “It’s great to be able to do this while we are transitioning because we still get a stable paycheck because we’re on active duty.”
Although none of the veterans are guaranteed a job with Microsoft, part of the academy is an interview training session that helps many of them secure an IT position. And at the end of the course, each of them is flown to Redmond, Washington to interview with the tech giant. Navy veteran Sean Kelley, Microsoft’s Senior Staffing Director of Cloud and Enterprise Group, told Lawrence, “70 percent of those who go through the program are working in the tech industry.”
In January, Kelley testified before Congress about what Microsoft has learned from its veteran recruiting efforts, and how the company believes that training veterans in IT can help solve the industry’s problem with finding enough people with technical skills to hire.
“Economic projections point to a need for approximately one million more STEM professionals than the United States will produce at the current rate over the next decade,” he told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The United States graduates about 300,000 bachelor and associate degrees in STEM fields annually. Fewer than 40 percent who enter college intending a major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. It is clear that many people, including veterans, lack the technology skills and industry certifications employers look for to fill the tens of thousands of available IT jobs across a broad range of industries. Eight years ago when we started exploring how Microsoft could be helpful to our transitioning veterans, we were surprised to learn there were very few opportunities for veterans to acquire these in-demand skills.”
Classes like this one are helping many veterans find not only a job, but a high-paying and satisfying career. Tuition for the class costs about $3,000 on Camp Pendleton, compared to $10,000 to $20,000 for a similar certification course off base. Corporal Joseph Priest told Lawrence, “As soon as I heard about this opportunity, I jumped on it…you put a little bit aside for tuition costs, and might get a job that lands you between 60 to 80k. I think it’s worth it.”
MORE: Here’s A New Website Bringing Unemployed Veterans and Understaffed Tech Companies Together