Veterans Day is a time to celebrate the value and impact veterans bring to the civilian workforce. Service members have experience and skillsets uniquely applicable to the technology industry, and at Microsoft it is my mission to support them in learning how to apply their talents to tech.
Since launching Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) in 2013, Microsoft has invested in developing new paths for veterans to transition into technology careers. As Veterans Day approached, we wanted to measure the impact of these efforts and understand shifts in perceptions around hiring. My team worked with YouGov on a nationwide survey, which uncovered some very interesting insights and shows how attitudes have evolved when it comes to hiring veterans.
The research showed that 87% of hiring managers say corporate-sponsored IT reskilling programs like MSSA are more valuable than traditional college paths for bringing veterans into technology careers.
We know firsthand that every veteran’s career path is unique. A four-year degree may be ideal for some, and a certification program might be better for others. One thing is certain regardless: Transitioning service members need more opportunities that lead to successful careers in today’s workforce.
The findings in this research reinforce the value of this work and show notable progress in hiring managers’ views of veterans as the highly sought-after applicants they should be.
Every day, U.S. military service members and veterans add tremendous value to our society and economy. But they haven’t always experienced equitable opportunities in the workforce and career paths, and training programs haven’t always been built with them in mind.
Recently, a study by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business revealed employer biases that pigeon-holed veterans with the perception that they demonstrate minimal interpersonal or problem-solving skills. At Microsoft, we know differently. These men and women are among the best our country has to offer. They can quickly solve complex issues with minimal resources, know how to work as a team, and understand the value of a mission.
Interestingly, the recent YouGov survey reflected a slightly different take — most hiring managers had a positive experience with veterans in the workplace, with 73% saying veterans value teamwork more than their peers.
While this data presents a more promising picture, it’s clear that there’s more work to be done. We need to encourage companies — particularly those that champion diverse perspectives — to think more broadly about how veterans contribute to corporate cultures, and how we can give them more tools to succeed.
Strategies to build on
As the technology sector continues to grow, the talent gap will widen further, demanding a continued evolution in strategies for attracting and retaining talent. According to the YouGov survey, almost 70% of IT hiring managers find it challenging to hire qualified entry-level IT staff, and 72% say it’s hard to retain tech talent.
Our partners at LinkedIn recently released their Veteran Opportunity Report, which found that veterans who transition to civilian careers have better retention rates and are more likely to be promoted over nonveterans.
These insights are reinforced by our own experiences here at Microsoft, where we’re seeing retention rates among MSSA-trained veterans of >80% after two years. MSSA — offered on base and prior to transitioning — is a proven reskilling model that helps provide a clear path from military service to a technology career.
We attribute our success to our holistic approach. The program has 14 locations across the nation, with the capacity to graduate 1,000 participants each year. Soft-skills training — including interview prep, resume writing and mentorship — is offered alongside the technical instruction. And more than 500 hiring partners help provide a successful transition during and after the program.
We also carefully designed the curriculum to map to the most in-demand technology roles. MSSA offers learning paths in Server and Cloud Administration and in Cloud Application Development — skills that more than one-third of IT hiring managers said are some of the hardest to find, according to the YouGov survey.
Veteran recruiting and training supports the men and women who have bravely served our country — and creates a rich, diverse talent pool that companies across the U.S. can benefit from. Education and skills training are not one-size-fits-all, and we must continue the work of creating new avenues for people of all backgrounds to gain the skills they need to participate in today’s digital economy.