THE BLOG
04/29/2013 12:14 pm ET Updated Jun 29, 2013
IMPACT X

From Combat Fatigues To Cyber Networks: Veterans For Hire

Alamy

Approximately 1.2 million armed forces personnel are expected to transition from the U.S. military to civilian life over the next several years -- and as many as 300,000 of those veterans will transition in the next 12 months. Naturally, they will look to move quickly into the next phases of their careers, into fulfilling jobs that will enable them to build upon their military experience and support themselves and their families.

If only it were that easy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 10.1 percent jobless rate for post-9/11 veterans. For veterans ages 18-24, that number exceeds 30 percent. As a country, we must come together to provide the training, certifications and jobs that our veterans have earned and deserve.

Take, for example, Courtney Beard, a current Cisco employee who transitioned from active duty Air Force service in September 2011. Coming from a family with a long history of military service, she knew at a young age that she would serve her country but did not think much about what life would look like after she returned home. Highly skilled and capable of excelling in the most difficult of circumstances, she still faced challenges finding a meaningful job aligned with her future goals. Ultimately, Courtney's process included resume critiques, regular attendance at job fairs and participating in the 6-month Warrior to Cyber Warrior training and mentorship program with other veterans, which prepared her for the CompTIA Security + certification.

People like Courtney are the driving force behind the White House IT Training and Certification Program, a new initiative to help military personnel make the difficult shift to the civilian workforce by providing training for high-demand IT jobs. Debuted today by First Lady Michelle Obama, the program -- in partnership with Joining Forces and the President's Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force -- will actively engage 1,000 transitioning military personnel in training, certification and career resources. The concept and platform behind the program was developed with leadership from Cisco and Futures, Inc., exemplifying how public-private partnerships can work to make meaningful, positive changes in our economy, our businesses and our country.

The program utilizes a cloud-based talent exchange platform with a best-of-breed military skills translator. Once registered on the platform, each participant selects one of several IT certification preparation courses -- among the options is the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA®), which prepares entry-level network engineers for careers and helps maximize foundational networking knowledge. (Cisco's Networking Academy program has already provided training for more than 45,000 military personnel). After participants complete the coursework and pass the certification exam, the platform will identify jobs in the IT sector that match their qualifications.

We know that veterans have valuable skills and experiences that are highly sought after in today's workforce. Our goal is for this program to take those skills -- teamwork and leadership, the proven ability to learn quickly, a strong work ethic, dedication and the ability to work under pressure -- and quickly translate them into successful career opportunities in the civilian workforce. In addition, transitioning military personnel and veterans can help to fill our current skills gap in the IT sector, accelerating innovation and growth in our economy.

It's important to remember that finding a job is only the beginning of a smooth transition to civilian life for our troops -- as employers, we must also ensure their ongoing success. At Cisco, that means internal initiatives, like our Veterans Enablement and Troop Support (VETS) Employee Resource Group, designed to provide our veteran-employees an internal community support network.

With so many of our young veterans struggling to find jobs in the civilian workforce, our support is more important than ever. We need more success stories like Courtney's, and we need them soon. We hope you will join us in helping support this industry- and government-wide push to provide training and mentoring to our transitioning servicemen and women.

Watch the video below for a closer look at the military transition stories of some of Cisco's employees.

Note: Cisco is the official sponsor of the ImpactX section.