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Military veterans are disciplined, task-focused, team-oriented and get the job done.
These are the same traits required in the information technology field.
Arizona has one of the fastest-growing economies for IT careers, with more than 17,000 full-time career positions currently unfilled, according to experts at ASU and networking hardware company Cisco Systems. At the same time, there is strong need for career support for veterans transitioning to civilian life.
“Far greater than saying to a veteran, ‘Thanks for your service,’ is to hire a veteran and give them meaningful work,” said Benjamin C. Freakley, former commanding general for the U.S. Army and special adviser to ASU President Michael Crow for leadership initiatives at Arizona State University.
“I can train someone to fix a computer, but I can’t train them to show up to work on time, to be a valued member, to be a leader. The military trains and imbues all those positive traits in the men and women who served our country.”
Now ASU and Cisco are hoping to serve veterans by hosting the inaugural IT Awareness Day on Thursday, Sept. 14, at ASU's Tempe campus. This six-hour event starts 1 p.m. at the Memorial Union and will feature Cisco, Amazon, Intel and other prominent members of the community and tech sector. Panelists from veterans service organizations and career representatives from industries such as health care, manufacturing, energy, transportation and logistics will also provide insights into trends in IT, work culture and a look at what the future holds for professionals within the state of Arizona.
The IT Awareness Day will be followed up by a Nov. 10 hiring event at the Phoenix Convention Center, where job seekers can be pre-matched with jobs and potentially have interviews on the day of the event.
Steve Borden, director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, said pairing veterans with the IT and STEM sectors is a seemingly natural fit, but a few gaps still do exist.
“Veterans get a lot of hands-on experience using high-tech equipment and are really primed for the IT field because in a lot of ways, it’s what they do in the service,” Borden said. However, he added, often what they are lacking is the civilian-equivalency certification to leverage their experience.
Borden said veterans are also not aware of the importance of branding and marketing themselves as they enter civilian life.
“Joining the military is seen as a selfless service, and an individual trying to advance themselves too openly is often looked down upon and usually does not do well in the military,” Borden said. “Helping veterans in that aspect of transitioning and appropriately advancing themselves in the civilian sector needs to take place.”
The two events were prompted in part by co-sponsor Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT and networking. Its leaders decided at a June 2011 meeting to make it a priority to hire veterans.
“The question asked at that meeting was, ‘We give hundreds of millions of dollars around the world for charitable causes, but what are we doing for our veterans?’” said Michael Veysey, director of veterans programs at Cisco Systems.
Veysey said Vietnam-era veterans such as himself were not often the beneficiaries of today's goodwill, but employers have changed their attitudes over time. He said companies like Cisco recognize the value veterans bring to jobs and are doing what they can to help.
He said Arizona’s veteran population, estimated around 650,000 people, can put the state at a great advantage by sending a message that vets can be a force after their careers in the military.
“We would like to establish Arizona as a national center of excellence for veterans in employment innovation.”
What: A day dedicated to raising awareness of career possibilities in information technology, featuring industry panelists and hiring managers.
When: 1-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14.
Where: Memorial Union, ASU's Tempe campus.
Admission: Free and open to the public.
Details: Event schedule can be found here. RSVP here.