Could the tech industry be the solution to military spouse unemployment woes? Microsoft thinks so.
The future outlook for IT careers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, military spouses continue to face double-digit unemployment rates, even as a recent survey shows nearly 60 percent hold an associate degree or higher. In response, Microsoft expanded its training to include the Military Spouse Technology Academy (MSTA).
In 2013, the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) program was initially launched for transitioning service members and veterans. With its present-day infrastructure it is anticipated to graduate 1000 annually.
This year, Microsoft went a step further in extending technology and soft skills training to spouses, built on the belief that IT is a viable, portable career option for a diverse talent pool that is on the go.
Marine Corps Major General (Ret.) Chris Cortez, vice president of Microsoft Military Affairs, says the company put a lot of thought into designing a program with the military spouse in mind.
“This is a pilot and we’ve spent literally a couple of years working hard to build this pilot right, because the military spouse is a very talented and capable person — who has a lot of requirements as is,” he said. “And to build the program for military spouses, you [have] to think about what [are] the requirements, what does a spouse need to do — obligations with the kids, soccer …”
The pilot is a 22-week classroom program that will prepare 19 military spouse students for careers in Server Cloud Administration. It runs slightly longer than the veteran training to accommodate any additional time constraints spouses may have, Cortez explained.
“We’re building in time that the spouse might need to fulfill the obligations of a military spouse,” he said. “So our whole objective is to see how well we put it together, to see how successful these 19 military spouses are in terms of getting hired into the IT industry, and then after that, we can decide where we might go.”
In addition to the technology training, Microsoft employees mentor and connect with their cohort through Skype and offer real-world advice, soft-skill training like resume writing and interview skills and provide a touch-point of constant support and direction for cohort members, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.
Gina Kirby, a military spouse who has worked with Microsoft for seven years, serves as a MSTA mentor. Her role is to provide leadership, feedback, and guidance to participants in a variety of areas including soft skills like interview preparation, networking, personal brand development, and more.
She says technology itself has enabled remote work possibilities, and there are a variety of disciplines within the industry that could make IT a great fit for military spouses.
“As someone who works in the tech industry but [who does not have] a traditional technology background, I know there are a variety of roles available for spouses interested in the industry,” said Kirby. “These include sales, marketing, customer advocacy, content creation and delivery, business and program management, strategy development, recruitment, and a long list of others. For those with technology experience there are roles in consultancy, support, engineering and more.”
Cortez added that Microsoft is focused on the military family as a whole, including a recent coding training for military kids in middle school called Microsoft Youth Spark.
He explained it’s important the American public knows about the employment issues facing spouses of U.S. service members.
“The military is an important segment of our society, it has a lot to offer, and in this case the spouse is super talented, really doesn’t have that many opportunities,” said Cortez. “We know our military spouses are either unemployed or underemployed and don’t have opportunities like this, so that’s why would put this pilot together.
Our challenge is to have the public realize that these things are going on,” he added.
The Military Spouse Technology Academy pilot program students are scheduled to graduate February 28, 2019.
Visit Microsoft Software & Systems Academy to learn more about Microsoft training for service members, veterans and military spouses.Read comments