One million U.S. service members will transition to civilian life in the next five years. David Roddenberry and his team at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families are helping those service members gain the skills they need to continue successful careers outside the military. IVMF and the Onward to Opportunity-Veterans Career Transition Program (O2O/VCTP) help service members and spouses take online courses in topics such as web development, business analytics, and hospitality management, all at no personal cost. Here’s how IVMF is getting creative to re-skill and up-skill transitioning service members.
The Challenge: Training 1 Million Service Members
The challenge facing IVMF is a big one: helping those 1 million service members transition to civilian status. Where will they land jobs?
IVMF works to understand what employers are looking for, and helps transitioning service members and spouses build those skills. The program was launched in 2015 and has nine locations around the U.S., with more locations planned for the next year. IVMF’s goal is to complement existing Defense Department programs and provide an end-to-end solution for training and employment.
One employer partner, Accenture, is working toward the goal of hiring 5,000 veterans and military spouses by 2020. A representative from Accenture Federal Services describes the program as a way to attract great talent, and describes Onward to Opportunity participants as “highly engaged professionals,” with both the attitude and aptitude they need to succeed at the company.
The Answer: Providing High-Demand Skills
Roddenberry says employers are looking for a few key skill areas. The hottest industries are IT, health care, advanced manufacturing, and project and program management.
IVMF also looks at H-1B visas to understand core skills employers can’t find in the U.S. “There’s an appetite for skills veterans have,” he says.
In addition to technical skills, veterans often bring in-demand soft skills like “initiative, flexibility, adaptability, problem solving, and commitment to the mission.”
Addressing Service Members’ Unique Challenges
Service members who are preparing to leave the military face a few hurdles in their journey toward private-sector employment. The Pentagon mandates that active-duty service members can only start the Onward to Opportunity initiative when they have six months remaining in their commitment — no earlier. IVMF’s challenge is providing two years worth of great training in a six-month timeframe.
Its solution has been combining online and in-person learning. The initiative’s blended learning environment gives learners the flexibility of a self-paced online course, with the benefit of in-person interaction with advisers and peers.
IVMF uses online learning programs to expand the curriculum and improve the learning experience for participants. “It provides a solution that a wide range of learners respond to, which is hugely important for a population like ours,” he says, adding that many participants have been out of classrooms from three to 30 years.
“We don’t have to maintain subject matter or expertise. I have little interest in being a project management expert when we need to be course delivery and content experts.”
Veterans in the program learn new skills in courses like:
- Java Programming (Duke University).
- Hospitality Management (ESSEC Business School).
- Excel to MySQL (Duke University).
- Full Stack Web Development (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology).
- Foundations of Management (IESE Business School).
- Web Design for Everybody (University of Michigan).
“In broad strokes, we look at our outcomes: job placements, certificates gained, rate of course completion, pursuit of higher education,” Roddenberry says.
The team also looks at how program alumni can have a long-term impact on other veterans. “We’re soon rolling out a resource bank for alumni to help others through the program and connect to additional resources,” he says.
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