How Microsoft Trains Veterans to Thrive in I.T.

November 10, 2017

The unemployment rate for veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 fell 5% last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And more major corporations are integrating programs to ensure that veterans are hired and remain employed.

Microsoft is one of the companies taking steps in this area. The tech giant teamed up with the Computing Technology Industry Association, to build a program that offers employment training and mentorship for veterans and active duty members of the military. Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) provides information technology certification to its students.

“[For] those that want to try to get into the I.T. industry, why not create a path?” Chris Cortez, vice president of Military Affairs at Microsoft, told Cheddar in a recent interview.

Cortez, a retired major general in the U.S. Marine Corps, says that veterans and members of the military have a lot to offer to corporate America.

“In the military you’re grounded in leadership, in the mission, figuring out tough situations, getting the job done,” with limited resources, he said. These are qualities, Cortez says, are transferable to any industry.

After retiring, Cortez says his major struggle was understanding how his skills would fit into a traditional work setting. So he encourages companies to create more "pipelines and programs" to make the transition easier.

MSSA focuses on job development skills and also provides pointers for interviews and resume writing. Students can also be placed in a mentorship program to better understand corporate life. Those who are hired at Microsoft are assigned a work mentor for their first year with the company, Cortez said, adding that the program has allowed Microsoft to develop high veteran-retention rates.

“Our retention rate, above two years, is at 90 percent,” he said.