SAN ANTONIO – They've defended our country, and now they're ready to help America in a new way.
Many military members transitioning into the civilian workforce can find it difficult to land jobs in STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. They are qualified but need help with training and transition.
A federal bill aiming to help veterans just passed the House and Senate.
The Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act (SB-153) would make National Science Foundation programs available to vets and coordinate with other federal agencies to boost similar courses.
U.S. Air Force veteran Terry Burden served for over 20 years and now coordinates a similar program in San Antonio.
“It was difficult for me to transition out. However, going through programs such as the STEM program or other programs the military had to offer, it helped me. It helped me understand the culture outside the military,” he said.
Burden is the local campus director for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU). The university has extended campuses across the nation, focusing specifically on STEM education for transitioning military members.
The extended campus at Randolph Air Force Base is called Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA). Microsoft runs the program and helps the government fund it.
The 18-week training program teaches cloud application, cloud development and cybersecurity.
There are two separate parts to the program. From 8 a.m. to noon, students learn technical IT material. Then from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., they learn transitional skills for when they get into the civilian workforce.
“Resume writing, how to dress, from wearing a uniform to wearing civilian clothes — the terminology that will be used by business owners and hiring officials,” Burden said, giving examples.
Rep. Will Hurd, who oversees South Texas veterans, voiced support for the bipartisan bill, saying the following: “We live in a world where our military and economic dominance is no longer guaranteed. To maintain our position as the leading global innovator, we must have enough creative problem-solvers and leaders to fill jobs.”
SB 153 now sits on President Donald Trump’s desk for a signature.
“Our military vets and active-duty members have so much talent, so much knowledge that they can give to the civilian sector. I think it’s very important that we as a society embrace them,” Burden said.
The MSSA program at Randolph has the capacity for about 20 students per class. Those classes count for college credit.
The top slots are saved for active-duty members who will end their military service within six months, but all active-duty members and veterans are encouraged to apply.