Big tech might be in the middle of some layoffs, but the demand for veterans in tech is as strong as ever. So how can you be one of those veterans who lands a great job in the tech sector if you haven't done much tech in your military career? More importantly, how can you be sure you will be happy with that tech job before you invest your precious transition time in the process?
As the transition master coach for Military.com's Veteran Employment Project, I often hear from veterans who are ready to leave defense completely. They aren't interested in going back to college for a four-year degree either. Instead, they would like to move into one of those "new collar jobs" -- roles in technology that prioritize skills and capabilities over degrees or having a traditional career path.
But finding the right road into that career seems complicated, especially when you hear about someone who got one of those jobs and then hated it.
That is why I was so interested to hear about the program that Transition Overwatch has put together for veterans. While there are some well-established programs for military members to get technical certifications on active duty, or through Onward to Opportunity or Salesforce, Transition Overwatch has evolved its program to the next level.
I talked to its founder Sean Ofeldt, a Navy veteran, a few days ago. He told me the program, launched in January 2020, helps veterans get a job in the tech sector with "unconventional apprenticeships." The program is open to everyone, but their sweet spot is between E-5 and O-3.
This path provides more than an opportunity to get certifications by combining career exploration, education, internship and then placement with one of Transition Overwatch's partners. "Placement" is one of my favorite words when it comes to veteran programs.
How Transition Overwatch Works for Veterans:
1. Career Exploration
Ofeldt told me that you start the program about 12 months before you leave the military. In the exploration stage, you learn about the different jobs available in software or as a project manager, data analyst, cloud administrator, cyber security analyst, IT generalist or operations leader. Then, you identify your target career path.
Location is also an important part of the process. Currently, Transition Overwatch functions with employment partners out of four hubs: Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Hampton Roads, Virginia; and Northern Arkansas. Next year, new hubs are opening in San Francisco, California, and Denver, Colorado.
Next is the vetting stage, which is different than in most programs. This stage is free -- and it is tough.
"The vetting stage is key," said Ofeldt. "You have to prove to yourself -- and us -- that this is what you want to do."
You can expect to do 50 hours of tech fundamentals online and then 50 hours of path-specific online training. "We want you to get as close to a day-in-the-life as possible," said Ofeldt.
Ofeldt told me they have an 80% attrition rate at this stage, which did not surprise me. Tech is not for everyone, and it is better to find out sooner rather than later.
I also think it is good to make the vetting stage tough as a sign of commitment to the employer. No matter how much an employer wants to hire veterans, they are taking a risk in hiring someone outside normal channels.
3. SkillBridge internship
The next phase comes at the end of your military career or while you are on terminal leave in a SkillBridge internship.You do 12 to 16 weeks of advanced training online, led by an instructor.
At this point, you are hired by a partner with full-time pay and benefits. By making it an apprenticeship program through the Department of Labor that is managed by Transition Overwatch, you are provided with a structured program that includes living expenses, a coach and a community. They consider mission success when you are 12 months post transition.
"It's not the easy button," Ofeldt said. "It is a great opportunity. You have to be willing to show up and put out the effort. If you are open to proving yourself early, this is the program for you."
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
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