Joining Forces: Cisco And Its Channel Help U.S. Vets Find IT Jobs

Cisco and its channel are teaming up in a whole new way this year, collaborating to train and find jobs for the thousands of U.S. veterans transitioning out of the armed forces.

The new initiative, announced Monday and called the IT Training and Certification Program, is part of First Lady Michelle Obama's broader Joining Forces program, aimed at providing support for U.S. military families.

"I want to thank [Cisco CEO] John Chambers and everyone at Cisco for their extraordinary leadership to create this new IT Training and Certification program," Michelle Obama said at the program's launch event Monday at the White House. "I'm very proud. This is the kind of leadership that is going to make a world of difference."

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IT vendors including Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Oracle and NetApp are also participating in the program.

For Cisco's part, the networking giant will work side by side with both its solution provider and training partners to help prepare transitioning military personnel for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam. After participants pass the exam, they will have access to a Web portal from talent management software vendor Futures, Inc. that will identify job openings in the IT sector that best align with their skill sets.

The new IT Training and Certification Program isn't the first instance in which Cisco has helped prepare former military personnel for jobs in IT. According to a blog post from Cisco's Chambers, Cisco has already provided training for more than 45,000 military personnel through its Networking Academy program.

Speaking at the event Monday, Chambers cited research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that found the jobless rate among U.S. veterans to be more than 10 percent, and an even more staggering 30 percent for veterans between the ages of 18 and 24. Chambers referred to these figures as being "just plain wrong" and encouraged other IT companies to help fuel veteran training and recruitment initiatives.

"I'm asking other IT companies to join us because we can show you the results and we can show you what happens," Chambers said.

Chambers said Cisco has already conducted pilot programs with the job placement software being provided from Futures, which he described as a cloud-based technology that works by translating "military skills into private sector skills."

"We have done this in four pilot opportunities with army bases, and we have had literally a [job] offer for 50 percent of the individuals who went through these pilot systems," Chambers said.

A Cisco spokesperson told CRN that a list of Cisco channel partners participating in the IT Training and Certification Program was not yet available.

Tim Duffy, vice president of professional services at Teracai Corp., a Syracuse, New York-based solution provider, said that, in addition to helping former military personnel find jobs, the new Cisco-based program will benefit solution providers and other technology companies by potentially filling some of the skill-set gaps they have today.

"It sounds like a great idea," Duffy said. "We are always looking for skilled individuals, so if it adds to that pool and gives us access to those resources, I think it's great."

In her closing remarks at Monday's event, Michelle Obama noted that the new IT Training and Certification Program represents the first of many steps the Obama administration will take alongside technology giants like Cisco to facilitate job training and placement for U.S. veterans.

"We're not going to stop, because in the end that's really what this is all about," said the First Lady. "In the end, if we keep working together and build these public-private partnerships, I know we will be able to serve our military veterans and families as well as they have served this country."