Why Young Vets May Be the New Face of IT

Companies such as Sprint, GE and Dell are increasingly looking to technologically savvy young veterans to fill their work force gaps.

The unemployment rate among veterans ages 20 to 24, at 15.8 percent, is twice the rate of non-veterans in that age group, which is particularly staggering in light of the 250,000 veterans that transition out of the military every year and the 17 million veterans in the work force already.

Contrary to the predominant view, 80 percent of military jobs are non-combat. Of these, 42 percent are technical positions, and of those, 30 percent are in electronics and 9 percent are in communications.

"Both groups are really significant talent pools for technology companies," Tom Aiello, vice president of Military.com, a division of New York-based Monster Worldwide that aims to serve as a bridge between employers and exiting servicemen and women, told eWEEK.

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Aiello argued that hiring veterans is good business and not goodwill; there is no need to hire vets for patriotic reasons, he said.

"They should hire veterans because of the proven talent pool they represent and incredible impact they can bring to their organizations," Aiello said.

This isnt news to many technology companies. Ten percent of Sprint Nextels employees were formerly in the military. General Electric, BellSouth and Dells work forces also have high percentages of former military hires.

"Veterans mostly come from one of two big buckets, but they all have technical skills. In one, theyve had very specific training and may already hold a Cisco certification or even satellite training. In the second bucket, they have received training because everything on the battlefield today uses encrypted technology. The average person in the military is coming out of service with above-average technology skills," Aiello said.

Those veterans with more generalized skills are highly trainable, Aiello said, and veterans with more specific skills have usually received top-of-the-line training.

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Beyond their technical skills, young adults who have spent years in the army typically leave with many of the secondary skills highly prized in the workplace.

"Theyve got a GI bill in their hand, theyre ready to work and they have the proven ability to be trainable," Aiello said.

"When you hire people in IT, youre looking for technical skills, but the best employees have other values, too …[including] teamwork and work ethic. These are all things they learn and practice in the service."

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