11/26/2013 10:40 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2014

Helping Military Veterans Pursue Technical Ambitions

Returning service men and women untapped resource for STEM community

Recently I had the privilege of spending some time with a group of veteran U.S. military service men and women who have returned recently from serving overseas and are now trying to assimilate back into civilian life. Several of them shared stories about the difficulties they often face throughout the process of pursuing an education or new career. This particular group of people were all currently enrolled at a local technical university where their background and experience from the field makes them unique contributors to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Representatives at a technical university told me that they are constantly inundated with requests for financial aid from military veterans who are trying to manage the financial demands of their families while taking on school tuitions and the costs associated with going back to school, relocation, rent, food and child care. If we can help them overcome some of the obstacles they face on a day-to-day basis, these men and women make a valuable addition to the STEM employee pool.

There are a few programs already in place or being put into place to assist with these needs like the Military Transition Support program (MTS) launched by the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) Foundation. MTS provides grants to veterans of the U.S. military and members of their families to ensure they have the necessary resources available to achieve their career ambition of receiving a technical degree or certification.

These types of programs help veterans like Starrbuck Long, whose disability and full-time enrollment in school prevents him from being able to work. Long has struggled to manage the daily challenges of keeping up with his course work and bills while supporting his wife Jacquelyn, and their two young daughters, Kara and Aurora. He recently received a MTS grant that will cover five months of rent to help relieve some of the financial burden on the family.

Long and his family are just one example out of thousands. Helping recruit, educate and employ military veterans should be a priority for the STEM community. This specific group of people are perhaps the most deserving of our support, and they also bring valuable experience and expertise that can only help propel these fields into the next phase of pioneering discoveries and advancements. Bolstering the STEM community with this student and employee population will not only improve our country's domestic health but also our economic success and position as a global innovator.

To learn more about MTS visit