Tech & Work

Veterans: An untapped workforce that could be the next revolution in tech employees

IT solutions firm Sharp Decisions has been training and deploying teams of tech-savvy veterans since 2013. The Trump administration's visa positions could affect IT employment: Are vets the solution?

The presidential election of 2016 has resulted in a lot of things being up in the air, including H-1B visas. President-elect Trump has stated opposition to the H-1B program, which may result in a number of high skilled tech jobs going unfilled if foreign applicants aren't allowed to apply.

If US companies have to start looking inside the country for skilled workers there's sure to be a roadblock: Tech companies constantly repeat lines about a shortage of skilled workers, and there's reason to believe that's true.

Enter Sharp Decisions. In 2013 it launched its Vocation, Education, and Training for Service members, or V.E.T.S. program. Its goal, as stated on the program's website, is to "invest in one of America's greatest untapped resources." With a high likelihood of change in the hiring practices of the tech industry there's no better time than now for veterans to take advantage of programs like V.E.T.S.

More than just training for veterans

Sharp Decisions CEO Karen Ross noticed something several years ago: The high unemployment rates among returning veterans. "They're young kids and they have no opportunity."

SEE: Three education options for veterans wanting to enter the software engineering world (TechRepublic)

She designed the V.E.T.S. program not only to give tech-savvy veterans a chance to find a good career in a high demand field, but also to put the onus on big businesses to hire its veteran teams. "I'm looking for... large corporations to jump on the bandwagon."

Sharp Decisions has worked with several prominent clients, such as Experian, Freddie Mac, and EmblemHealth. Results have been impressive too: The V.E.T.S. team at EmblemHealth managed to reduce a 45-minute project report time to one minute.

What the V.E.T.S. program does

The program doesn't simply train vets and send them out into the world: It teams them up just like they were in the military to play on the strengths they already have.

It starts with a close screening of applicants: Sharp Decisions doesn't want to train veterans without any tech exposure at all. That higher bar to entry might seem intimidating, but it translates to a 93 percent training success rate, and each graduate goes on to a full-time paid position with Sharp Decisions.

SEE: Veteran startup founders explain how to build and grow your company (TechRepublic)

Teams are hired based on the needs of Sharp Decisions' clients and they aren't required to relocate for training. Once hired, veterans are trained, tested, and taught based on the particular project they're hired for. Training often takes place at the client site, giving new veterans a chance to learn with their team while integrating into the workplace.

Not just temp work

Don't assume that the end of a client project means the end of a veteran's job: They are permanent Sharp Decisions employees. As soon as work at one client is complete teams are redeployed to new clients where they tackle new challenges, continuing to learn and grow as tech professionals.

With half a million tech vacancies in the United States right now, projected growth in unfilled positions, and the unsure future status of H-1B visas, organizations like Sharp Decisions are in the perfect place to tackle the upcoming employment shortage.

Post 9-11 veterans have unemployment rates higher than the national average, yet many leave the military with skills that would make them excellent fits for the tech industry. By not only engaging and training qualified veterans, but also by putting the obligation on corporations to contract their V.E.T.S. teams, Sharp Decisions is filling the gap while helping those in need.

Next time you need a well-trained squad of IT professionals you know where to turn: You might just be giving a veteran a chance at a better life.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Sharp Decisions' V.E.T.S. program trains teams of veterans to tackle tech projects, but it's not just running bootcamps: Trainees are brought up to speed on projects that particular companies need completed. Once training completes they are assigned in teams to that client.
  2. The V.E.T.S. program has a 93 percent training graduation rate, which is largely due to how it hires its teams: Applicants have to have a degree of technical skill before starting—V.E.T.S. is not in the business of fully training people.
  3. There is a distinct possibility that the Trump administration will shrink or eliminate the H-1B visa, making hiring US citizens more important than ever, yet half a million tech jobs remain unfilled. Programs like V.E.T.S. are the perfect thing to combat potential employment gaps.

Also see

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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