The U.S. has a proud heritage of honoring veterans for bravely defending our great nation, our values, and our way of life. As we observe Veterans Day 2019, the technology industry is honored to be part of this tradition by supporting veterans in their transition to civilian life through hiring initiatives, job training, and advocacy on public policies aimed at assisting veterans.
Tech companies recognize the value of hiring veterans not just because of their proven work ethic, discipline, and leadership skills, but also because their unique skillsets often match a company’s needs. Of the more than 1.5 million members of the U.S. armed forces who will retire from service and seek new careers by 2022, many of them have learned specialized skills over the course of their training and service — in fields such as cybersecurity, physics and engineering, and information technology — that can carry over to high-paying STEM jobs in the private sector.
For that reason, several tech companies lead veterans hiring initiatives. At Google, veterans can visit their careers website and enter their military occupation code to find open jobs where they can put their talents to work. Other companies such as Amazon and AT&T have dedicated pathways for hiring veterans as well as support networks for themselves and their families when they get there.
Companies also offer educational resources tailored for veterans who are seeking additional training. These courses can help put them on the fast track to a fulfilling career in tech. For example, Accenture’s Veteran Technology Training Program enables former service members to take essential computer science courses, earn a verified certificate, and be fast-tracked into the interview process for engineering positions at the company.
However, we can and must do more. Our nation’s veterans face the unacceptable reality that when transitioning to civilian life, 80 percent of them experience a period of unemployment. This crisis strains families, robs our veterans of their dignity, and exacerbates any physical and mental health challenges they may be facing from their time on the battlefield.
There is no magic solution, but in addition to private sector leadership, policymakers can help. The 2017 “Forever GI Bill” made several positive reforms, including funding for modern-day education providers like coding boot camps. This year, Congress should pass the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act sponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representatives Neal Dunn (R-FL) and Conor Lamb (D-PA). This bill would direct new National Science Foundation resources to boost outreach to veterans to encourage them to study and pursue careers in STEM. It would also bolster federal agencies’ coordination of programs for transitioning and training veterans for STEM careers, and develop a strategic plan to address the barriers that veterans face when entering the workforce. The House has already passed it, and the Senate should follow suit.
In addition, the National Defense Authorization Act currently being negotiated includes a measure making it easier for military spouses to transport their occupational licenses when they move and extending the service branches’ authority to reimburse licensure and certification costs arising from a permanent change of station. And, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), herself a veteran, has introduced the Energy Jobs for our Heroes Act, to help veterans obtain training and credentials needed to secure jobs in fast-growing sectors of the low- and zero-carbon emissions energy industry.
All of these policy efforts — and others designed to empower veterans to attain the education and skills they need to advance their careers and support their families — deserve immediate consideration to ensure our veterans’ transitions to civilian employment is as seamless as possible.
Veterans in STEM jobs will continue to play a key role in advancing a mission of critical importance to the U.S.: securing our place as the global innovation leader in the 21st century. But our American workforce can only reach its full potential if we embrace the diversity of our nation and bring out the best of all talented and capable individuals who are being left behind, especially our veterans. I, for one, cannot think of a better group of people to lead the charge in this endeavor than those who put their lives on the line for our country.
The technology industry and the private sector as a whole should be proud of what we do to support those who have served. On Veterans Day, we thank them for their service and vow to continue building on our work to ensure that future generations of veterans can provide for their families and help lead our economy into the future.