A tour of duty in the U.S. military doesn’t guarantee a job for returning soldiers. In fact, veterans – even those with extensive IT experience — are discovering that finding a job at home is quite difficult. One of the biggest challenges they face is matching their military occupational specialty (MOS) to a career in the civilian field. It’s also a challenge for U.S. companies.
“There is a lack of knowledge on the side of civilian employers,” says Charles Eaton, Executive Director of CompTIA’s Creating IT Futures Foundation. “They don’t understand how the MOS’s translate. They (veterans) have skills that people in civilian jobs have never had to use, life and death leadership skills, and civilian employers don’t really understand how that translates into a job.
Without a clear connection to translate military IT skills, employers rely on established methods: certifications. Even though a veteran may have built and managed SQL databases, her application is lost in the stacks without them.
“The industry is very interested in seeing the certification,” observes Gretchen Koch, Director of Workforce Development Programs at CompTia. “It’s a validation of the skillsets, so it’s one thing to say you’re trained in it, but it’s another thing to pass an exam.”
Recenty, the Obama administration proposed “reverse boot camp,” a program of tax incentives for businesses who hire returning veterans. Bringing on a veteran who’s been out of work for less than six months would give the business a $2,400 tax credit. The credit’s $4,800 for hiring a veteran who has been out of work for six months or more.
The proposal comes as the ranks of the unemployed are swelling with returning veterans. Currently their unemployment rate is above the national average at 11.5 percent, and promises to grow as the military draws down tens of thousands of troops over the next several years.
The incentive may best help small companies, since even successful ones are finding it hard to get loans to grow their business.
Veterans looking for help can turn to Microsoft’s Elevate American Veterans Initiative. The company is getting 10,000 veterans IT-certified over the next two years. It also sees veterans as potential sales and marketing reps. Well-versed on vernacular and protocol, they can return to their respective branches to sell new Microsoft products.
CompTIA, through its Creating IT Futures Foundation, has done a lot of work in recent years to get veterans retrained and started in second careers. It also supports the work of the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Wounded Warrior Project itself, along with Cisco and Raytheon, help participants explore IT as a potential career field. So far, the program has graduated over 700 active duty military personal.