Approximately 1.2 million armed forces personnel are expected to transition from the U.S. military to civilian life over the next several years, with as many as 300,000 in the next 12 months.  Many of these veterans will look to move quickly into the next phase of their careers and need to find fulfilling jobs that will enable them to build upon their military experience and support themselves and their families. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 10.1 percent jobless rate for post 9/11 veterans and exceeding 30 percent for veterans ages 18-24. It is imperative that, as a country, we come together to fix this. We must provide the training, certifications and jobs that our veterans have earned and deserve.

As an example of what we hope public private partnerships will do for our veterans who have given so much for our country, I look at Courtney Beard, a Cisco employee, who transitioned from active duty Air Force service in September 2011 with very little IT training. Coming from a family with a long history of military service, she knew at a young age that she would serve her country but she did not think much about what life would look like after she returned home. Highly skilled, and capable of excelling in the most difficult of circumstances, she still faced challenges finding a meaningful job aligned with her future goals; the process included resume critiques, regular attendance at job fairs, and participating in the Warrior to Cyber Warrior training and mentorship program with other veterans.

People like Courtney are the driving force behind the White House IT Training and Certification Program – an initiative to help transitioning military personnel make the difficult shift to the civilian workforce by obtaining the necessary training and certifications needed for high demand IT jobs.  Debuted today by First Lady Michelle Obama, the program – in partnership with Joining Forces and the President’s Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force – will actively engage 1,000 transitioning military personnel in training, certification and career resources. The concept and platform behind the program was developed with leadership from Cisco and Futures, Inc. This public-private partnership exemplifies business and government working together to make a difference in our economy, our businesses and our country.

Program participants will have access to training, certification, and career matching opportunities once they register on the Futures, Inc. U.S. IT Pipeline, a cloud-based talent exchange platform utilizing a best-of-breed military skills translator. Each participant will select one of several IT certification preparation courses such as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), which prepares entry-level network engineers for careers and helps maximize foundational networking knowledge. (Cisco’s Networking Academy program has already provided training for more than 45,000 military personnel.)  After each participant completes the coursework and passes the certification exam, the website will identify jobs in the IT sector that match their experience and qualifications. My hope is that this model will expand to include even more participants considering IT careers.

We know that veterans have valuable skills, experiences, and qualifications that are highly sought after in today’s workforce. Our goal is for this program to help take their skills – like teamwork and leadership, the proven ability to learn quickly, a strong work ethic, dedication, and the ability to work under pressure – and help quickly translate them into successful career opportunities in the civilian workforce. In addition, transitioning military personnel and veterans can help to fill our current skills gap in the IT sector, which will help accelerate innovation and growth in our economy.  Watch this video for a closer look at the military transition stories of some of Cisco’s employees.

It’s important to remember that obtaining the necessary training and certifications, and being matched to the right job is only the beginning of a successful transition for our troops to civilian life. We as employers must also ensure the ongoing success of that transition. Mindful of the difficulties some veterans will face in transitioning to the civilian workforce, Cisco developed many internal initiatives, including the Veterans Enablement and Troop Support (VETS) Employee Resource Group. This group is designed to provide veterans working at Cisco an internal community support network to mentor, support and assist our newest veteran employees’ transition.

With the Administration, especially The President and the First Lady and other leaders in the private sector such as our partners in this program, Futures, Inc., Global Knowledge, Pearson Vue and others, we can work together to mentor, train and provide opportunities to those who serve our country. We need more success stories of veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce. We hope you will join us in helping support this industry- and government-wide push to provide training and mentoring to our transitioning servicemen and women.


John Chambers

No Longer with Cisco