Current Events

Title:Veterans get hiring boost with online courses, networking

Author:C.J. Lin

Date:November 2014

Source:Used with permission from © 2014 Stars and Stripes.

Volume:Volume 3 Issue 100

ARLINGTON, Va. — Veterans looking for a job will now get an extra boost via new and free education and networking perks, first lady Michelle Obama announced Monday as part of the administration's efforts to get more troops hired after they leave the military.

"It's about making your transition to a fulfilling and wonderful civilian career as seamless as possible," Obama said. "Because we know that leaving the military can feel like you're stepping into a whole new world. And in the past few years, too many veterans have struggled during these crucial few months right after you hang up that uniform."

To improve their prospects for being hired, all veterans are now eligible for a free certificate for select courses on Coursera, an online site where users can take college courses in a variety of topics, Obama said during a keynote address to the Business and Professional Women's (BPW) Foundation.

The courses range from data science and cybersecurity to entrepreneurship and health care.

Coursera is also partnering with the Department of Veterans Affairs to launch 20 "learning hubs" around the country — physical centers that would offer online access and support for veterans on the job hunt.

After completing a Coursera course, veterans can upload the certificate to online job networking giant LinkedIn, which will also be offering a free one-year premium subscription that would otherwise cost about $360 a year.

The subscription will allow the veterans to appear as featured applicants to potential employers, and will allow the vets to access training materials tailored for those who served in the military and contact anyone on the network.

"This commitment doesn't just give you a leg up on your competition, it saves you money and saves your family some money as well," Obama said.

LinkedIn will also be integrated with the Veterans Employment Center, the online database system the VA launched this year to help veterans connect with employers. Veterans will be able to upload their VEC profile to LinkedIn, as well as access resources specifically for veterans.

Last month, the unemployment rate for female veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan was 11.2 percent, five points higher than male veterans from the same wars and more than double the rate for civilian women, Obama said.

"That's just wrong," she said. "After everything ... all of you have done for this country, the fact that any of you are worrying about where your next paycheck is going to come from, or struggling to put food on the table — that should be appalling to all of us as Americans."

The announcements came as part of a female veterans career development forum held at the women's memorial at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Veterans Day. The event was a follow-up to a private roundtable in July in which Obama met with five female veterans to discuss challenges they faced in finding civilian jobs after leaving the military.

Among them was Trish Freeland, who retired as a chief master sergeant after 30 years in the Air Force. While serving, she developed training and financial plans, earned a leadership award, and got her bachelor's and master's degrees with honors.

"I didn't think I would have any trouble finding a job after leaving the military, but I quickly found out that wasn't the case," said Freeland, adding that while she had the experience that employers were looking for, she lacked the experience in specific fields. "How do I get that when I've been 30 years in the military?"

Freeland eventually participated in a mentoring program where she received interview preparation, and six weeks ago she landed a job as a public information officer with the Small Business Administration in St. Louis.

To other veterans who are looking for a job, she recommends getting a degree to stay competitive and reaching out to other veterans working at companies of interest.

"Anything you can do that makes it easier for veterans to connect with companies is going to help tremendously," Freeland said of Obama's announcement. "I didn't know very many people in companies that I wanted to work for. So these portals that they're creating help veterans get a foot in the door. It's going to be extremely beneficial."

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