By Hattie Bernstein
Ask anyone serving in the military what it takes to accomplish a mission, and you’re likely to hear words such as “focus,” “agility” and “teamwork” — the same traits leveraged last fall to launch Southern New Hampshire University’s WT3 Initiative, a partnership of the university, veterans’ advocate SoldierSocks and WT3 (Warrior Transition Technology Training), a Massachusetts business dedicated to training veterans and placing them in high-paying IT jobs.
“How it came about is there’s a huge demand for database administrators in IT and a lot of veterans who are unemployed or underemployed,” says retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Gary Soldato, COCE’s assistant vice president for military initiatives. “Brian Mullaney and Chris Nichol of WT3 came to us and said, ‘How can we help veterans (and) get them certified in Oracle?’”
SNHU, with a veteran enrollment of roughly 7,000 students, seemed a perfect match.
Soldato says it wasn’t a secret that Oracle Database Administration is “the 800-pound gorilla” in the world of data and business. But the question focused on how the university could incorporate an Oracle-guided learning path within its curriculum.
The challenge was heightened, he says, by the push from Mullaney and Nichol for a rapid deployment.
“There were opportunities for a job or an offer with large data companies, the Fortune 1,000 companies,” Soldato says.
SNHU’s decision-makers mulled it over.
“It sounded too good to be true,” Soldato says. He, military career advisor Joe Jenkins and Dr. Gwen Britton, executive director of COCE’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, agreed that the best plan of action would be a test.
“We wanted to see if the platform works,” says Britton, who set up a trial, an independent study with no credits, on SNHUconnect, COCE’s internal social platform for students.
interviewed and screened, with WT3 approving candidates based on their academic and work records.
“It’s designed for those students who are working hard, helping themselves. We help them a little extra,” Jenkins says. “They served well in the military. Now that they’re out, they’ll serve in that capacity for a company.”
Britton, who is overseeing the three students enrolled in the pilot, developed four courses to prepare them for Oracle certification: Intro to Oracle Database Administration (DBA), Intro to Structured Query Language (SQL) and Oracle Database Administration (DBA) parts 1 and 2.
The goal for fall, after two more rounds of non-credit-bearing training, is to enroll between 15 and 25 students in a guided learning path that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and Oracle certification. For 2016, the target is 50 to 100 students. While plans include broadening enrollment to include civilians, initially only veterans will be accepted into the program.
“The goal is to get the veterans experience to get the jobs waiting for them,” Britton says. “To me, it’s like magic that we’re actually doing it.”
WT3’s Mullaney and Nichol say the partnership is a certain recipe for success.
“The secret sauce is the money is there. You put the GI Bill to proper use,” says Nichol.
Mullaney agrees, saying that if a company has a choice between two good candidates and one of them is a veteran, the veteran gets preference.
“Employers are committed to veterans, but we were putting the cart before the horse,” Mullaney says of WT3’s initial efforts. “We retrenched, looking at the supply side, training requirements. We asked, ‘Where are the veterans? How do we find them?’”
The resulting partnership is a triple win: Corporations cut outsourcing expenses by hiring American workers for IT jobs currently going overseas; veterans making the transition from the military to civilian life get the support they need to launch rewarding careers; and SNHU, WT3 and SoldierSocks accomplish their shared mission.
“We’re in the business of maximizing veteran employability,” Soldato says, a phrase he uses like a mantra. “The demand is there. We will provide the supply.”