Microsoft's MSSA Program Still Helping Vets Find Employment
Just in time for Veteran's Day (Nov. 11), Microsoft's vice president of military affairs, Chris Cortez, published a LinkedIn blog post with the headline "New data shows a promising change in perceptions toward hiring veterans. That's worth celebrating." Cortez's post revisits the history and successes of Microsoft's Software and Systems Academy (MSSA), which I've been writing about for GoCertify since the program first ramped up in 2013.
As an Army Brat myself — my Dad retired from the U.S. Army in 1970 as a Lieutenant Colonel — I've always known that military servicepeople and veterans make up the backbone of our nation. They are superlative in many ways: courage, discipline, dedication, and — I hope you saw this coming — profoundly inculcated with skills on "learning how to learn" and always being ready to dive into training of all kinds.
In fact, all branches of the military are unique in that they practice lifelong learning in a serious and continuous fashion. Even generals and admirals will be sent off for coursework, classes, or hands-on training (and usually, a combination of all of those things) on no less than a biannual basis. All service members regularly attend training of some kind or another throughout their entire military careers.
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When servicemen and -women prepare to leave the military — it's called "transitioning back to civilian life" — the various branches of the service schedule them in for a final round of training, including technical or subject matter courses, as well as life skills and social orientation courses. That's to ensure they can make a graceful move from military life back into "the world," as the rest of society is sometimes called inside that group.
Microsoft launched its MSSA program in 2013 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a combined Army and Air Force base in Tacoma, Wash., with other branches also invited for courses, exercises, and meetings on an ongoing basis. On November 13, 2013, I blogged about this program for TechTarget in my IT Career JumpStart blog.
My first GoCertify post about this program appeared on Aug. 26, 2016: "Microsoft Expands U.S. Military Certification Outreach Program." MSSA is more than just a quickie, boot-camp-style "run 'em through MCSA/MCSE training lickety-split" sequence, though. The company also includes key soft skills training such as interview prep, r�sum� writing, and mentorship, alongside technical coursework.
The MSSA has been a serious and beneficial program for transitioning active-duty service members and selected veterans for some time now (more than six years). Cortez focuses his LinkedIn blog on how attitudes toward hiring service members are changing.
Here are some of the most interesting factoids he reports resulting from a nationwide survey Microsoft commissioned with YouGov (initial factoids in italics are quoted verbatim from the Cortez article):
87 percent of managers say that corporate-sponsored IT reskilling programs are more valuable than traditional college paths for bringing in veteran talent. Like Microsoft with its MSSA work, many large companies and organizations offer concentrated boot camp programs on military bases to prepare vets and transitioning active duty personnel prepare for IT jobs in the civilian workforce.
Most hiring managers had a positive experience with veterans in the workplace, with 73 percent saying veterans value teamwork more than their peers.
70 percent of IT hiring managers find it challenging to hire qualified IT staff.
72 percent struggle to retain them. (Hiring managers struggle to retain qualified staff, that is.)
In-house, Cortez reports that Microsoft's own retention rate of MSSA-trained veterans is above 80 percent. He attributes this to "a proven reskilling model that helps provide a clear path from military service to an IT career."
MSSA offers learning paths in Cloud Administration and Cloud Application Development — skills that more than one-third of IT hiring managers said are some of the hardest to find. (This finding is attributed to the YouGov survey.)
The last time I talked to somebody at Microsoft about this program, they had graduated their half-dozenth cohort of attendees. By now, they've expanded to the program to more bases, and they must have graduated several dozen cohorts, if not more than 100, by now. I'm glad to see Microsoft doing such a good job of helping our vets and military acquire skills and knowledge to help them make a good living in civilian life.
I hope they keep up the good work, and that everyone understands that, when this happens, everyone benefits: the veterans themselves, the companies who hire them, and our society and country as a whole. In helping veterans find high quality IT jobs, Microsoft is not only thanking them for their service, it is also providing them with an excellent way to use what they know and have learned to keep serving the United States in civilian life.