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Microsoft giving away free IT training -- and a job -- to soldiers

On Monday, Microsoft said it will offer a free 16-week IT course for soldiers transitioning out of the military into civilian life—with a guaranteed job at the end of it.

The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy will be based on the Microsoft IT Academy, offering the training necessary to take the next step and pursue training to become a developer, applications engineer or IT project manager. At the end of the course, Microsoft said, participants will be hired as software testers by either Microsoft or Launch Consulting, the technology consulting firm administering the program. As the program expands, those additional soldiers will be guaranteed at least a job interview.

Microsoft launched a pilot implementation of the Academy at the Joint Base Lewis-McCord (JBLM) in Washington, where about 8,000 service members are expected to move out of the military into civilian life as the U.S. winds down conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Vow to Hire Heroes Act, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), allows those soldiers to begin the transition process while they’re actually employed by the military.

“American servicemembers possess the drive, self-discipline and problem-solving skills that are essential for the technology industry,” said Microsoft executive vice president and general counsel Brad Smith in a statement. “The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy is a bridge between one great career—serving in the U.S. military—and another, creating technologies that improve lives.”

Microsoft has been among those private companies who have assisted vets find work in the civilian workforce. Since 2001, unemployment among veterans was several points higher than the civilian workforce. But aggressive campaigns by both governments and private companies seeking a disciplined, motivated workforce have brought that number down: during the second quarter, unemployment among veterans dropped to 7.4 percent, close to the 7.2 percent of the general workforce.

Microsoft’s commitment to veterans dates back to before 2010, when it created a dedicated portal to lure vets to Microsoft. In 2010, it donated $8 million of cash and free software to several nonprofits designed to assist with the transition.

The S&S Academy program will be expanded to bases in California and Texas later this year, Microsoft said. Active duty service members transitioning from all branches of the military as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves returning to their civilian jobs are eligible for the academy, a Microsoft spokeswoman said in an email.

“Since they are all active duty servicemembers while participating in this program, they still are employed in the military and receive benefits during this transition period,” she added.

Microsoft is the primary program sponsor with other partners providing material support and services, including Launch Consulting, RallyPoint/6, Saint Martin’s University, Stone Education Center, and WA State WorkSource.

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