I’m reaching out to the major IT cert sponsors to learn more about their programs and benefits for veterans and active duty military preparing to transition out of the service into civilian life, with a special emphasis on prepping for and finding employment in information technology. To that end, I spoke with several members of the Microsoft Learning Experience (LeX) earlier this week to discuss what kinds of programs and benefits are available to these people. In coming months, I intend to do likewise with Cisco, CompTIA, Oracle, IBM, HP, VMware, and anybody else I can find to help me open up the subject for discussion and documentation.
The Army’s Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) is just one of several gems my conversation with MS turned up.
Before I dig into key details of what I’ve learned so far, I’d like to observe that something is lacking in this picture. Amidst all the great and laudable efforts from many players, there’s no central clearinghouse for this kind of information, and overall benefits information available. A vast cast of characters, including the White House, all branches of the military, certification sponsors, training companies, and others are engaged in trying to help our veterans and transitioning military personnel find their way into meaningful employment preparation and job opportunities. But it’s difficult for the target audience to find out how to take advantage of these many opportunities, and how to make best use of programs like the post-9/11 renaissance of the GI Bill. I’m going to do my best to shed some light on this subject matter, and to try to make information more transparent and readily available, to help veterans and those transitioning out of the military make more and better sense of this situation.
In my conversations with various members of the LeX team that included a military recruiter for the company itself, plus various individuals involved in programs and offerings that target this specific audience (veterans and transitioning active duty personnel), I not only garnered some interesting and useful information, I also got a sense of how huge and complex this landscape really is. Here are some key bullet points from our free- and far-ranging discussion:
- The US Army operates ACAP, the Army Career & Alumni Program, which is labeled as “The Army’s Official Transition website.” There, members of the US Army will find locations for physical ACAP centers at various Army bases and installation, a central phone number for questions and additional information, and a virtual online center for those unable to take advantage of the ACAP centers in person.
- The Points of Light foundation takes on veterans as one of its specific focus populations, with a military initiatives component that provides all kinds of information and opportunities for the public to show support for and provide assistance to veterans, as well as to provide information and pointers to veterans in search of career development and employment opportunities.
- Microsoft itself is working with veterans and transitioning service members in all kinds of ways, and through numerous programs, one of which is documented in this recent blog post “From the Conventional Classroom to the Military, IT Academy Is Spreading to New Realms.” A new Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) takes a curriculum developed by St. Martin’s University based on the long-running MS IT Academy program and its materials, and is making a pilot program at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Ft. Lewis, Washington. There, those who complete a 16-week course to earn certification in development or IT project management areas may be hired into entry-level roles as software testers by Microsoft or Launch Computing (the technology consulting firm that’s administering this program). Plans are to open other such training programs before the year’s end at other key bases in Texas and California, with additional locations to be announced next year. Active duty personnel from all branches of the military, the National Guard, and Reserves, will be eligible for this program.
Finally, my discussion with the LeX team (Sarah Roberts and Dan Sytman of Microsoft, and Sheryl Tullis of Launch Consulting) concluded with some hard-learned advice that they asked me to pass onto members of the target population who may read this blog post:
1. Look for local transition centers for information, guidance, and help.
2. LinkedIn offers numerous advice and mentoring groups that can offer advice, guidance, and good information to those who seek it out.
3. Don’t forget that the job market is tough for civilians right now, too, so that plenty of old-fashioned (people) networking and lots of elbow grease will be required to find a job in IT (or just about any other field) these days.
4. Remember that the modern “GI Bill” is limited to four years of support, so be sure you take it up with a well-crafted plan of training and courses to produce a degree or a collection of certifications, if not both, before you start cashing in on the program. Otherwise, you risk running out of benefits before reaching your education and/or certification goals.
All of this is good information and advice, and should be helpful to those who take time to ponder and then act upon it. Count on me to keep coming back to this topic, and to keep adding to the store of information about programs and providers, and to share any further nuggets of advice and wisdom that I can turn up in my conversations with cert sponsors on the general subjects of training, certification, and career development for veterans and transitioning active duty military personnel.