Nobody lists “leader” as a job title, quips Zachary Barclift. While seven years in the Marine Corps made him one, the designation just wasn’t cutting it for his search at securing the perfect job.
And Brad Shedd served 21 years as an infantry soldier, retiring as a sergeant first class mortarman. Go figure—not a lot of civilian companies are hiring folks to drop rounds on enemies, jests the 41-year-old veteran.
They are among the 23 students enduring the grueling three-month training course to learn SAP Software and Solutions-certified application programs through NS2 Serves, a program that aims to ease the struggle of transitioning from boots to suits. The trainees are in week two of the program’s fifth class, which has graduated about 80 certified students, each of whom have gone on to find good-paying jobs.
With the overall veteran unemployment rate hovering around 5 percent, an estimated 500,000 veterans actively seek work across the United States. All too often, their military job skills don’t translate to the civilian sector, in spite of positive traits that often define a veteran: leadership skills, loyalty, punctuality, discipline and a drive to succeed.
SAP National Security Services established NS2 Serves, teaching the SAP software solutions used by government agencies and businesses. The program provides a monthly stipend during the training program, mid-term bonuses for those who complete requirements and placement assistance to work in the U.S. national security field when the students graduate.
The program focuses on more than the complicated software language, says instructor Khalid Jamali, who weaves lessons on soft skills such as public speaking, resume writing and interviewing skills throughout the training. “I want them to get a job,” says Jamali, who has been teaching for about 10 years. “The end product really is helping them find work.”
Graduates earn SAP certifications that broaden opportunities to find work in the private sector, an aspect Natasha Cunningham, 33, is banking on. After serving for four years in the Marine Corps, she attended Gwynedd Mercy University but has not been able to find work. Since January, she has sent out about 50 job requests, receiving no reply and figuring her military background just is not providing the job experience she needs to qualify.
The independent, nonprofit initiative, created to give back to the community it serves, is open to post-9/11 veterans and Gold Star spouses, the survivors of service personnel killed in action or who die from service connected causes. NS2 Serves managers give preference to veterans who recently returned from war zones and seek their first post-separation employment.
Applicant requirements include:
• Honorably discharged U.S. military veterans, including disabled veterans
• Veterans must be within three years of their date of separation
• A minimum of a high school diploma or GED, and relevant technology experience
Of 300 veterans who applied for the current session, managers interviewed about 80 before selecting the final 23. “It’s a very intense program and [candidates] have to have discipline and patience” to meet the vigorous course pace and syllabus, says NS2 Serves Associate Director Aparna Moondra.
Reginald Davis, 38, earned a master’s in business administration after leaving the Army after 13 years of service and wants to apply the earned certification to land a good-paying job and possibly open his own small business in the future.
The program will host an open house April 29 at the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia, for companies seeking to interview the students for employment.
Reprinted from SIGNAL Online, March 2016 with permission of Signal Magazine. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.