First Lady gets behind veterans' IT training

The Information Technology Training and Certification Partnership prepares veterans for careers in IT.

military businessman

A new program will provide thousands of former military members with the chance to gain the certifications they need for 12 different high-demand, high-paying technology careers. (Stock image)

Military members preparing to transition to civilian life are getting a professional boost: A White House-directed initiative for IT training combines the efforts of the public and private sectors to offer certifications for technology careers.

First Lady Michelle Obama announced the Information Technology Training and Certification Partnership on April 29, highlighting the reach of the program and the variety of career tracks it will help provide for veterans. The partnership comes as veterans face high unemployment rates and documented troubles in gaining critical job certifications.

"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," Obama said, according to a Defense Department release. The partnership developed under a DOD task force effort the White House directed last June to identify military specialties that can readily be adapted to high-demand jobs, as well as to find gaps in skills and needs, coordinate with credentialing and licensing authorities and provide vets with access to certification programs.

"The Task Force's work is focused on industries that have an identified need for more skilled workers and stand to benefit from military expertise and training, including manufacturing, first responders, healthcare, information technology, and transportation and logistics," a White House fact sheet stated. "The technology professions targeted through this partnership are expected to generate more than 1.8 million job opportunities by 2020, and have an average annual salary of more than $81,000."

Participants in the program include industry trade associations, academia, unions, state governments, veterans' organizations, state licensing boards and a number of companies providing a range of services. For example, Cisco Systems established a system for matching military specialties with specific IT career paths and will provide exam preparation, while Microsoft and CompTIA will offer exam vouchers to help offset costs for training. Additionally, Cisco, Microsoft, CompTIA, NetApp, HP, Futures Inc., Global Knowledge, GogoTraining and SANS Institute all are offering resources for various types of training, education and certification.

"We know that veterans have valuable skills, experiences, and qualifications that are highly sought after in today’s workforce," John Chambers, Cisco chairman and CEO, wrote in an April 29 blog post. "Our goal is for this program to help take their skills – like teamwork and leadership, the proven ability to learn quickly, a strong work ethic, dedication, and the ability to work under pressure – and help quickly translate them into successful career opportunities in the civilian workforce."

The program currently is in a pilot phase, according to White House documents. During the pilot, service members also are able to participate in "bridge training programs" if a gap analysis shows that the member needs the training in order to obtain civilian credentials.

The program comes at a critical point. In February 2013, the White House released a report highlighting the unique challenges veterans face today in attaining credentials and licenses necessary for civilian employment. Furthermore, unemployment rates for veterans remain higher than those of the general population – rates that decreased in the past year, but could increase when, as Obama pointed out, more than a million troops exit the military post-war.

According to a March 2013 employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 declined by 2.2 percentage points to 9.9 percent in 2012, the latest available figures. By comparison, the overall U.S. unemployment rate currently is 7.6 percent.

Roughly 2.6 million men and women are "Gulf War-era II" veterans, serving at some point since 2001. Of those, 17 percent are women. Female veterans' unemployment hovered around 12.5 percent, similar to last year – the BLS did not provide an age breakdown. Among male veterans, the 2012 unemployment rate for male Gulf War-era II veterans age 18 to 24 was 20 percent, higher than the rate for non-vets in the same age group (16.4 percent). The rate for male veterans age 25 to 34 was also higher than the rate for their nonveteran counterparts at 10.4 and 8.1 percent, respectively.

"Our country's new veterans are highly trained and highly skilled, yet unemployment is still high," Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in a March 2013 statement. "Unlike the rising number of suicides and the VA claims backlog, translating military to civilian credentials is an easy fix – and could instantly change the unemployment trend."

IAVA also is working to tackle unemployment alongside industry, including through its Career Pathfinder employment tool, which they created with Cisco.

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