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Training program for vets focuses on analytics

Shutterstock imag (by Benjamin Haas): cyber coded team.

A training program for veterans run by NS2 Serves has honed in on analytics as it heads into its fourth session.

Potential employers have shown a tremendous amount of demand for analytical skills, said Mark Testoni, president of SAP National Security Services, a subsidiary of the software giant that created the independent, nonprofit organization to train veterans in high-tech careers.

The course gives veterans the "basic skills to approach...the new generation of jobs," he added.

The first NS2 Serves courses, conducted last year, focused on enterprise resource planning, but after conversations with prospective employers, NS2 Serves has shifted the curriculum to focus on analytics, said Laura Carmack, the organization's vice president of recruitment and assessment.

The latest three-month course trains students in how to use search tools to find and analyze information in data warehouses. At a time when companies and agencies are awash in data and looking to make sense of it, a trained database curator can come in handy.

IT experience is not a prerequisite for the NS2 Serves program. And although many other programs focus on preparing veterans for the workforce, Testoni said few target the "hard-to-employ" veterans that NS2 Serves does. Of the 56 veterans who have successfully completed the organization's training, the majority do not have college degrees and a few have been homeless, he said.

The program builds on "those good skill sets that they get in the military and [adds] an important technical skill on top that would allow more employability," he said.

All 56 graduates have gotten jobs, mostly with companies that use SAP National Security Services products. Testoni said those companies include Accenture, Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and SAP.

For veterans who are tech savvy but not necessarily computer whizzes, training programs like NS2 Serves can be crucial to getting their resumes a second look. Carmack said IT professionals use certifications as calling cards, and even a modest amount of training can boost employment prospects. She recalled how employers who had previously overlooked a candidate began taking notice of him once he received a certification.

What's more, she said, employers once skeptical of hiring trainees without a college degree are now warming to the idea.

Graduates act as ambassadors for the NS2 Serves program by spreading the word among their peers. In its first year, the program drew significantly on a Labor Department database of roughly 1 million veterans, but recruiting is increasingly happening through word of mouth, Carmack said.

Current and former policymakers have also backed the program. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with NS2 Serves participants last year, while cybersecurity-minded lawmakers Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) serve as co-chairmen of the program.

The only real hurdle the program's backers face is funding. Conducting each course for about 20 veterans costs $30,000 to $35,000 per student, Testoni said. But the program has secured enough support to expand from two courses to three this year, he added.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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