In the wake of the Walter Reed hospital scandal, in which wounded U.S. Army soldiers were found to be recovering in unsatisfactory and unsanitary conditions, more attention has been focused on supporting military personnel as they transition into civilian life.
A new program from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is providing such support as its first initiative. The association’s Creating Futures program helps military personnel overcome barriers of employment by providing certification, training and job placement assistance, all free of charge to the participants.
The first project by the Creating Futures program was executed in partnership with the Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Fla., beginning in early March and concluding on March 24. According to Amy Alexander, Creating Futures program manager, Jacksonville was selected in part because of its three percent unemployment rate. Veterans themselves were selected as a target audience after consulting with industry.
“We spoke with a number of employers and provided them with several target audiences for these types of positions, and one thing that always came out is U.S. veterans were the number one individuals they would look to hire first because of their experience, loyalty and dedication,” Alexander said. She added that many of the employers CompTIA consulted with had hired veterans through placement services and had good experiences with this, seeing these individuals rise from entry level to high level positions.
Veterans participating in the program completed CompTIA’s A+ certification and were also able to pursue Hewlett-Packard certifications, and in fact this program is funded by the IT industry through sponsorship by organizations like HP. Veterans were also provided with practice tests and mentors to guide their training.
Military personnel adjusting to civilian life are apparently grateful for the assistance. Aaron Sanchez, an assistant operations officer in the U.S. Navy and Creating Futures participant, said “I would recommend this program to others because it offers a tremendous opportunity for transitioning military members.” Sanchez had a question for other military personnel: “If a program like Creating Futures wasn’t available to you, what would you have done instead?”
However, this program is not merely an eleemosynary gesture on CompTIA’s part, it’s also pragmatic. “It fills the upcoming skills gap within the IT industry caused by the number of baby boomers retiring,” Alexander said. “A number of industry leaders were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to find the talent or individuals that have the experience to fill these positions.”
Trained military personnel generally have the talent and experience to fill IT positions, which makes them an easy fit for the Creating Futures program. The program’s next initiative, which began last week in Cleveland, is providing the same services to at-risk youth. This may prove more of a challenge.
“There is a huge difference, because military personnel have gone through training and have IT experience,” Alexander said. “With the individuals that are going through the Cleveland program, they have IT experience, but it’s very limited compared to what the [military personnel] have. So it’s a lot more one-on-one and ensuring that the dedication is there.” She explained that this means partnering with schools and organizations that have the ability to reach students and that the students themselves are dedicated to learning the skills at hand.
Dennis Zimmerman, director of the CompTIA Educational Foundation, pointed out that this program is dependent on donations from industry and members of CompTIA. So, to make it as successful as possible, the association is flexible in where and when it will be willing to implement the program.
“If a donor wants to be able to sponsor a program in their hometown or headquarters or in a particular area where they have strong business reasons to want to have a program or have positive publicity around the IT industry, this program is replicable in any geography,” Zimmerman said. “We partner with local non-profits or local governments or other sorts of educators to implement a program. Our goal is to grow the program and be able to train hundreds of people a year.”