CompTIA Seeks to Ease Returning Vets' Job Challenges

Susan Hall
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Five IT Career Skills on the Upswing

Five IT skills getting attention from recruiters.

At a visit to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia today, first lady Michelle Obama is due to announce the commitment of the American Logistics Association to hire 25,000 veterans or military spouses by 2014. The coalition of packaged goods companies includes 270 manufacturers such as Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Unilever and ConAgra.


President Obama in August challenged private employers to hire 100,000 post-9/11 vets or their spouses by 2013, something already in the works at companies such as Cisco, AT&T, Verizon and EMC with the "100,000 Jobs Mission." According to the White House, the unemployment rate for this group is at 13.3 percent, compared with 9.1 percent in the overall economy.


The Army announced in September a five-year troop reduction of 50,000. And in August, 17,500 military personnel cuts were announced by the Army, Air Force and Navy, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas noted in its most recent report on job cuts.


John Challenger, the company's CEO, noted that since many veterans joined the military straight out of high school, the idea of writing a resume and interviewing for a job is foreign to them. But the challenges of transitioning to civilian life are cultural as well, according to this piece, which says 2.5 million people have left the military since 2001. It quotes Matt Gallagher of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, saying:

The military teaches you about the team effort. You're supposed to downplay yourself and be respectful. But in this economy, you have to be cutthroat and put yourself forward.

Gretchen Koch, director of workforce development programs at CompTIA, told me that those coming out of the military many times have the technical experience - or even a certification or two. The issue, of course, is translating that experience to a civilian company's needs. CompTIA maintains that veterans provide an ideal pool of talent for unfilled IT jobs - hence its partnership with New Horizon Computer Learning Centers and the Department of Labor's One Stop Career Centers with its new Troops to Tech Careers program.


As part of the interview with Koch that I wrote about yesterday, she explained:

... the one-stop centers are where these vets go to get their unemployment checks and to get [Workforce Investment Act] funds. They're also getting the post-9/11 GI Bill funds for training and credentialing. So we're giving them information about IT as an avenue they could pursue with this WIA funding ... We're working with corporate IT companies as well as companies that have large IT divisions to commit to a certain level of hiring vets annually. We will have a website that links them to those hiring companies. So it's a three-pronged initiative that involves credentialing, training and employment.
The one-stop centers have dedicated personnel for returning vets. When a vet comes to the center, [he or she] goes to the head of the line. They make them aware of the funds available to them for training and credentialing, and of the local training providers. More frequently it's a local community college teaching whatever they want to get into - in this case it would be our A+, Network+, Security+ or whatever credential they're interested in pursuing. So they give them the funding for that and also the funding or voucher for credentialing. The Labor Department is very aware of the role of credentials in assisting people to find employment and that's their end game, to place these individuals in a sustainable job with a good salary and good career path as quickly as they can.

We talked about internships as a good way to get a foot in the door and about contract work, of which she said:

I think it's important for the public work force system to let people know that it's OK, that you're not copping out of getting a full-time position. It could be the way to get a full-time position.

Contract-to-hire work, which is so prevalent in IT hiring these days, though, presents its own challenges to veterans, she said:

The tricky thing with that is that you don't get benefits. Many of the military that's coming back, many of them are older ... So they're coming back to families, and it's tough for them to have an extended time when they don't have benefits.

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