Yesterday, Microsoft officially announced its new Elevating America's Veterans Initiative to assist veterans with developing the necessary technology skills to compete in today's job market.
Building upon the successful Elevate America program, Microsoft will bring together a coalition of public, private and non-profit organizations to provide veterans and their family members with the requisite skills and resources to succeed in the civilian work force.
“Our servicemen and women are amazing leaders, but to be able to compete in the tough job market when they return from duty, many of them need access to technology training,” said Pamela Passman, corporate vice president of Microsoft Global Corporate Affairs, who announced the initiative at yesterday’s National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) forum in Washington. “We are bringing together organizations and companies that can combine their competencies and resources with ours to make the greatest possible impact to help veterans and their spouses.”
Passman went on to say that every sector of the economy should be open to veterans and that Microsoft hopes to leverage existing infrastructures within the veterans' community, such as veterans' service organizations, to ensure that Microsoft resources reach those looking to compete in today's job market.
As part of the initiative, Microsoft will contribute $2 million in cash and up to $6 million in software over the next two years to assist members of the military and military spouses looking to reintegrate into the civilian work force.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or IAVA, was the first veterans' group to officially partner with Microsoft on the day of the launch. Microsoft is also looking for other eligible veterans' service organizations, work force agencies, community colleges, and other non-profits to ensure access to these resources for veterans from coast to coast.
"Microsoft wants to use all of the tools at our disposal to bring forth the skilled individuals from today's veterans' community," said Bill Kamela, Microsoft's senior director for education and workforce law and corporate affairs.
Microsoft has acknowledged that veterans bring to bear skills that many employers seek, yet the unemployment situation remains dire for those transitioning from today's military.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, more than 180,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are currently unemployed and total veterans' unemployment far eclipses the nations' already-daunting civilian unemployment figures.
AMVETS leaders have spoken out on the veterans' unemployment crisis, calling on Congress to develop better reintegration programs for today's transitioning service members and pushing Congress to pass the landmark Post-9/11 G.I. Bill in 2008, offering unprecedented educational opportunities to today's veterans.
In 2010, two of AMVETS' top legislative priorities include reintegration and education, with AMVETS Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof currently sitting on the advisory board for the Federal Government Veterans' Employment Initiative with the Department of Labor.
AMVETS has also launched new programs on the local and national levels to address job training and education ranging from AMVETS partnership with Supportive Education for the Returning Veteran, to the AMVETS Department of Ohio pilots Ohio Vets CAN and AMVETS Career Centers.
AMVETS National Legislative Director Ray Kelley applauded yesterday's Microsoft announcement.
"This is a critical step by Microsoft that will help veterans and their spouses launch viable 21st century careers--not just find jobs," said Kelley. "The Elevate America's Veterans Initiative is about making real connections and providing real resources to help our veterans excel, which is why we hope Microsoft will explore any and all resources to reach today's transitioning vets."
(Image: Microsoft's Pamela Passman announces the Elevate America's Veterans Initiative at yesterday's NAWB forum in Washington. Photo courtesy of Merritt Group and Microsoft.)