When Michael Schuler of Sohnen Enterprises Inc. served in the Marines, he worked on intensive electronics calibration and repair, a job that translated to his first civilian job as an electronics technician for a military contractor. “Although I was already well-qualified for the job, the employer enrolled me in a government-sponsored, on-the-job training program that supplemented my pay with a stipend from the government, and paid the employer as well,” Schuler said. “The on-the-job training program allowed me to get familiar with the company while mitigating both their costs and hiring risks.”
Those types of programs are beneficial to both veterans looking for civilian jobs and IT companies looking to hire qualified employees. Veterans, Schuler said, are among the most trained and reliable employees in the job market.
Support The Mission
Programs to help returning veterans do exist at the federal and state levels, said Schuler, a former executive council chairman for CompTIA’s ITSS Community and former chief executive officer of Veterans Alliance Resourcing, a small business owned by a service disabled veteran. Even without them, companies can promote their support by simply declaring “We hire veterans” and engaging with local and national veteran hiring platforms like Show Your Stripes and the Texas Veterans Commission.
CompTIA supports the mission through U.S. Tech Vets, an online community that connects veterans to jobs in IT. Because of the association’s support for U.S. Tech Vets, its members can post vet-related jobs for free on Monster.com and access veteran resumes in a database of more than 970,000. In this week’s CEO Corner, Todd Thibodeaux talks about the program and how CompTIA supports veterans.
Focus on Skills, Not Rank
As employees, veterans bring focus, maturity and the ability to get the job done, said Ron Culler, chief technical officer for Secure Designs Inc., in Greensboro, N.C., and a 10-year veteran of the Naval Security Group. “Veterans have skillsets that enable them to rapidly learn the foundations and excel rapidly up the ladder, assuming more and more responsibility,” he said.
Veterans are well-trained in technology and understand how to work on a team, said George Harris, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and vice president of business development for OnForce, which works closely with the Wounded Warrior Project to help with veteran employment.
A military background means veterans are able to assimilate into a work environment very quickly, Harris said, and offering transitional assignment can give both the veteran and the company the chance to evaluate the skills and capabilities in different functional areas. To help veterans succeed, IT companies should offer training in soft skills, especially when it comes to dealing with end-users. Most importantly, IT companies should remember that when it comes to veterans, one size does not fit all.
A veteran’s service designation or field specialty, often referred to as military occupational specialty (MOS), doesn’t limit his or her exposure or experience. “Just because their MOS was not directly related to the job they were applying for doesn’t mean they don’t have the experience doing the job,” Culler said. “I once saw a 19-year-old infantryman acting as a project manager and general contractor to build a fire station and police office in Iraq. He had no experience but was getting the job done because it needed to get done.”
Veterans bring a lot of skills, including the ability to follow directions, work in teams and lead. “These are critical skills that are not taught but learned through experience,” Culler said.
So what can the IT industry do in 2015 and beyond to help veterans find employment within the industry? “Focus on the skill that makes for a successful employee and less on what the resume lists as a military position or specialty,” Culler said. “Help HR with the flags that should allow a resume to bypass their filters.”
Look for Teamwork, Leadership, Discipline
Veterans do bring a lot to the table, agreed Aaron Woods, director of USSP relationship and partner programs for Xerox Corp.’s Global Customer Service Delivery and a six-year veteran of the U.S. Army. “All veterans have attained a number of skills while in the military that would fit the needs of any employer,” Woods said, citing teamwork, leadership, discipline and the ability to follow a chain of command. IT companies should consider the specific traits that veterans possess, like being team-focused and disciplined with a strong drive to complete a task. “The ability to work in a team environment is one of the most important attributes a veteran will bring to an IT company,” he said.
Companies should also consider that many veterans were in some type of leadership role when in the military. “The ability to lead IT projects is one area a veteran may have the ability to move into with minimal training,” Woods said.
Xerox actively seeks applicants transitioning from the military, retired military personnel, veterans with disabilities, as well as military spouses and family members, Woods said. Among other veteran recruiting programs, Xerox partners with the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, the White House Joining Forces Initiative, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and HiringOurHeroes. Xerox also helps transitioning vets with tips on resume writing, interviewing and job hunting.
Programs that provide the veteran with a marketable skill — like CompTIA’s Creating IT Futures Foundation — have the most impact when it comes to helping veterans, according to Woods. “CompTIA’s certification testing and education offering are the best in the industry,” Woods said. “While there is other similar type education, many of the offerings do not provide clear, useable information like CompTIA education.”
Michelle Peterson is a communications specialist for CompTIA.