New STEM Initiative Launched By White House Includes Job Training For Veterans

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A system technician uses the intrusion detection system to monitor unclassified network activity from the automated data processing workspace aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
Photo by Rick Naystatt

Last month, Vice President Joe Biden spoke about new career opportunities in industries related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known as STEM. In his remarks on a new high-tech training initiative for veterans, Biden explained that the White House’s study of the need for high-skilled American workers revealed nearly 1.4 million tech jobs that need to be filled in the next few years.


A more detailed review of the study disclosed that 1.3 million jobs will flow into “computer occupations and information systems managers.” However, the report indicates that it is doubtful that the United States will be able to meet that demand without hiring talent from other countries. According to the report, the federal government is developing many different initiatives specifically for veterans as well as broader-based programs open to various audiences. Some of these initiatives include:

•  providing educational credit for what was learned in service

•  fast-tracking GI Bill payments for apprenticeships

•  focusing on alternate learning models like coding boot camps

•  the Rural Network Allied Health Training Program

•  deepening relationships with businesses to hire veterans

•  Federal Transit Administration’s Workforce Development Program

A review of the Department of Labor o*net website provides a list of 12 job types that fall under computer occupations. A few of these titles stand out as jobs that veterans can excel at and have fun doing. For example, geographic information systems technicians, business intelligence analysts, and videogame designers are all job types that cater to the skill sets of service members.

A typical GIS technician “identifies spatial relationships … using maps, graphs or tabular data.” At its most obvious intersection, this career translates well for service members transitioning from the military to the civilian realm because we learn how to use maps and are expected to utilize that skill for situational awareness. However, it is important to understand that a GIS technician is more than someone who is good at land navigation. There are 18 certificate programs that add to the credibility of a civilian GIS technician. Additionally, GIS-focused educational options range from community college associate-level degrees and certificates to graduate-level degree programs.

Business intelligence analysts generally identify and analyze industry and business trends. Before everyone gets their hopes up, let me clarify that BI analysts are not spies. They are more like strategic-level intelligence specialists and require understanding of the battlefield, charting potential adversary and friendly actions, and providing good analysis to the commander. According to the o*net, 58% of BI analysts have a bachelor’s degree and 33% have an advanced degree. BI degree programs seem to be a bit more nuanced than others that were reviewed, with a focus on computer science coupled with a lot of statistics and business courses. Additionally, there are 85 certification programs available for BI analysts.

Videogame designers develop game play and may be involved in story development, character building, and code generation. Of course, those of us who have served have probably spent many hours with a game controller in hand staring at the screen in the rec room or head shed on staff duty. It is possibly your duty to design videogames for the young bucks coming up. But hold on there, Mario. Nineteen percent of designers have an associate’s degree and 57% have a bachelor’s degree. There are three certification programs for game designers.

As is readily apparent, being a veteran is not enough by itself to garner any of these jobs. However, being a veteran has given you the foundational training and discipline that will help you launch careers in STEM and become a huge asset as you pursue the training, education and certificates needed to get the job. The government is working on some innovative ways to provide high-level skills to veterans. The private sector is also doing good work through collaborative programs with organizations like Student Veterans of America. If any of these career descriptions speak to you, there is a way for you to transition into the industry.

Rick Schumacher served as a PSYOP Team Leader in Northern Iraq (2003-2004). He is a graduate of the Hauptmann School of Public Affairs with a MPA in disaster and emergency management. He is a Tillman Military Scholar and is developing the Community Vanguard Initiative, a veteran-focused organization centered on community engagement in emergency management. Follow him on Twitter.

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