This Free Career Program Is Available to Veterans and Spouses

Service member using a computer at a desk.

WASHINGTON -- The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University is currently enrolling eligible veterans and their spouses in an online program to enhance their career skills and job marketability.

The goal of the Veterans Career Transition Program, or VCTP, is to address the problem of unemployment faced by veterans and military spouses, and support those who are transitioning out of the military, said Dan Cohen, VCTP program manager.

The online courses enable post-9/11 veterans, transitioning military members and their spouses to obtain the skills and professional certifications needed to be competitive in the civilian world, he said.

Cohen, a former Army captain, knows the importance of helping veterans.

"No one was doing this when I got out of the Army. I'm real happy to be a part of fighting that battle today," said Cohen, who served two tours in Iraq during his 5½ years in the service.

He left active duty in 2005 after four years, then was in the Individual Ready Reserve for 1½ years.

"Finding that first job was incredibly challenging," he said. "It wasn't until I had an ex-captain have a look at my resume and help me pull some things together and help me figure out how to do some effective networking, that I found that first job."

Participants in the VCTP program pick a track of study in professional skills, technology or human resources. An adviser is assigned to students to assist them in developing interviewing and networking skills, help them create a cover letter and resume, and guide them in achieving the milestones in the program.

There are about 30 certification pathways available to participants, said Cohen.

At the completion of the VCTP program, Cohen said, students will have training, a certificate of completion from Syracuse University, and, when applicable, industry-recognized certifications that will make them competitive in the civilian job market.

Veterans and spouses who are already employed and need to achieve industry certifications to advance or maintain their employment can enroll in the independent study track. There is no deadline to apply for the independent study course, which begins as soon as the student enrolls.

In the professional skills track, students gain skills in creating resumes and cover letters, and preparing for and executing job searches, Cohen said. Enrollees can take courses in Microsoft Office, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

The tech track prepares students for a career in operations or IT. The program will pay for associated exam fees for industry certification.

The human resources curriculum is tailored to provide training for a newcomer to the HR field; it also prepares existing HR professionals for the Professional in Human Resources and Senior PHR certification exams, depending on their experience level. The training is certified by the Human Resources Certification Institute, the certification arm of the Society for Human Resource Management.

The VCTP program, funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co., is offered at no cost to eligible veterans and their spouses, Cohen said. A partnership between Syracuse University's School of Information Studies and JPMorgan Chase & Co. initiated the program in 2011, and the school's faculty remain engaged in developing curriculum and industry collaboration.

To be eligible, veterans must have served at least one day of active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. Active-duty members are eligible if they are transitioning out of the military in the next 18 months. Spouses of eligible veterans and all active-duty members, regardless of whether they are transitioning, are invited to apply.

Army Reserve and National Guard members are eligible as well, said Cohen, as long as they have served at least one day of active-duty post-9/11, not including their annual active-duty training.

All five branches of the military have been represented in the program from the lowest-ranking enlisted member to high-ranking officers, at all education levels and backgrounds, Cohen said.

Spouses recently were included in the program.

"We've gradually been expanding the eligibility for the program, but there was this gap," Cohen said. "The challenges that military spouses face, regardless of whether the veteran is transitioning, are unique in the job market."

Those challenges for spouses include employment gaps, finding an easily transferable career field because of the frequent moves, and job seekers successfully marketing themselves to an employer, he said.

In addition to the VCTP program, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families offers other programs free of charge for veterans, Guard and Reserve members, military families and disabled veterans. Cohen noted that all the information is available on the institute's website at

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