Veterans Rush to Apply to VA's Pilot IT Training Program

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The Veterans Affairs Department said it will be months before it knows if a pilot program for teaching information technology skills to veterans of all generations will be made permanent and expanded.

But it already knows that veterans are interested in the so-called Accelerated Learning Program, which it first announced in early August.

"We ... had significant interest in the program and received over 1,000 applications the first day" applications were accepted on Aug. 17, VA spokeswoman Monica Smith said.

She said the department stopped taking applications by the end of the month -- after it received a total of 3,500 -- though it continues to receive queries and some veterans believe the VA should have made a greater effort to advertise the pilot.

Smith couldn't say how many vets will be selected for the pilot program because officials are still vetting applications. She said they are expected to know that number in October.

Military.com ran the program announcement on Aug. 5 and a follow-up story on Sept. 3. Since then Military.com has received well over 100 queries from veterans looking to get into the program and anxious to see if it will be made permanent.

The VA developed the program using data from the Labor Department showing a growing employer demand for IT skills that typically require less than six months of dedicated training, said Rosye Cloud, senior adviser for veteran employment and acting director for the Office of Transition, Employment and Economic Impact.

The training is free and does not count against a veteran's GI Bill.

The initial program includes seven IT courses, among these coding and programming boot camps and more than 80 IT certification programs in hardware, software, networking and web services. Veterans also will receive training and certification in network support engineering, cybersecurity, IT help desk, and IT boot camps for desktop support and Windows.

The program also includes job placement for the graduating veterans, as well as monitoring to track employment, retention and advancement.

"Each ALP course has a different timeline for completion, with the longest ranging up to four months," Smith said. "Once each ALP course is complete and all relevant graduation, job and budget-related data have been collected, VA can make a determination about future Accelerated Learning Programs."

The VA has seven partner companies in the pilot ALP, providing the training online and in several cities, including San Antonio, St. Louis, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. "Our hope is that the pilot will prove successful so we can open up this opportunity to every interested service member and veteran to participate," Smith said.

Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Larry Dajnowski, who worked in communications security in the Navy and later in civilian life with IT services companies, is skeptical.

"This is typical of the VA and we won't hold our breath," he told Military.com in an email.

After retiring in 2001, Dajnowski went to work for a company that sent him and other employees to schools for continued training and advancement, he said. He eventually gained certification as a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert and went on to become a systems engineer.

"Amazing how companies back then were willing to pay for training," Dajnowski said. "Have not found any since then."

--Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com.

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