Michael Buckenberger, director of admissions at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in Durham, N.C., is amazed that the private sector doesn’t consistently value military job experience the same way it values non-military employment. But he’s seen IT certifications make all the difference for veterans seeking to validate their skills for a private sector job.
“The same vet who spent six months unsuccessfully looking for work can come in here and earn two certifications, and—Boom!—he’s hired,” says Buckenberger.
His Durham, N.C., center, along with other New Horizons centers across the country are seeing an influx of veterans who are obtaining IT training and certifications using the benefits from the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) VetSuccess Program, and/or the Workforce Investment Act. Vets using Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for non-college degree job training programs starting Oct 1, 2011, helped spark the spike.
Starting last fall, CompTIA partnered with 31 New Horizons centers, and their local OneStop Career Centers, to launch its Troops to Tech Careers program aimed at helping veterans transition from the armed forces to the civilian IT workforce. The Troops to Tech Careers mission is to ensure that returning veterans and their spouses who have an interest in an IT career can receive the education, credentialing and job placement resources to be successful in this growing field.
CompTIA provides the New Horizon and One Stop centers with marketing collateral and logos to help promote IT training and employment opportunities for veterans. New Horizon center operators report the collateral is helpful not only when explaining IT training programs to veterans, but also when encouraging local employers to hire trained veterans. In addition, Troops to Tech Careers operates an online corporate registry of companies who have made a commitment to prioritize the hiring of IT veterans.
The Troops to Tech Careers campaign has helped support New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Orlando, Fla., and its conversations with potential employers for veteran students. The center is located near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Patrick Air Force Base, and major government contractors such as Harris Corp., SAIC, Computer Science Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
“The Troops to Tech Careers program blends nicely with the 8570 DOD training that we are currently doing for the military and government contractors” says Chet Wisniewski, New Horizon Orlando’s general manager of sales and marketing. “The current presidential administration is pushing the hiring of veterans every single day, and our CompTIA training, certification and job placement assistance programs enable veterans to meet 8570 DOD standards.
“By earning CompTIA certifications like A+, Network+ and Security+, they are now qualified for a lot of potential employment opportunities,” he says. “That’s what the Troops to Tech Careers program is all about!”
New Horizons of Orlando’s job skills training and certification to the business, government sector and individuals provides a solid base for its outreach to veterans. “We have good relationships with local OneStops and VA representatives,” says Wisniewski. “So for the veteran interested in IT, we’re pretty well connected in the business, technology and government contract community, as well as the workforce board community.”
In addition, Wisniewski is delighted to see veterans networking with B2B clients’ employees and managers in his center’s IT training classrooms—that situation, he believes, will lead to more hiring opportunities for the vets. “Companies like Lockheed Martin, Harris Corp., SAIC, Computer Science Raytheon and Northop Grumman are always looking for people with security clearance, IT certifications and people with a military background,” he says. “Our veteran students tend to have all of the above.”
Making sure that local veterans leverage their IT training options has been a prime focus for the last year for Cindy Sutherland, vice president of career development at the five-location New Horizons Computer Learning Centers of Southern California. Extending from Burbank to San Diego, the SoCal New Horizons centers are located near numerous military installations, and Sutherland has been and continues to be in close contact with the local bases, Veterans Affairs offices and workforce development centers.
“Our vets are steadily increasing,” Sutherland says, adding that a majority of veterans in her programs already have IT experience and many are interested in IT security. “Not only are we training veterans with IT experience, but we also are introducing veterans with no IT experience to a whole new profession.”
“We always start with basic CompTIA A+ and Network+ courses as a strong foundation,” says Sutherland. “Once the foundation is built, the student is educated to make the choices of the direction best suited for themselves and their IT career.”
In late February, the first batch of SoCal veterans using their Post 9/11 GI benefits were completing a five-month CompTIA certification training program. “Our plan is to put them into a building block Microsoft certification program and get them into security,” says Sutherland.
With her own veterans marketing already in place, Sutherland hopes CompTIA would promote and hold a Troops to Tech Careers day at her New Horizons centers located near military bases. “That would be powerful,” she says.