Can technology innovation – coupled with the boldest kind of leadership – work together to start fixing the most intractable problems facing America? On July 21 – we’re going to find out. The countdown to MerITocracy 2022: American Innovation Forum is on.

In the lead-up to the July 21 forum, we are table-setting a host of big issues that will get serious attention at MerITocracy 2022.

Chief among those is the glaring technology and cybersecurity workforce gap faced by the Federal government as it looks to deal with a bulge of retirements over the next few years, and the need to refresh the workforce with tech talent.  The MerITocracy lineup features some of the leading voices in Congress on that issue, with separate addresses from Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Okla. And Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.

In today’s edition of Countdown to MerITocracy, Amazon Web Services (AWS) explains the driving forces behind the company’s innovative programs to bring more U.S. military veterans into cybersecurity and IT careers – and swell the ranks of the tech-ready as the Federal government competes for their talents.

The in-person forum – taking place at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C., from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. – will host bipartisan leaders from Congress, the Biden administration, and America’s tech industry to examine the most pressing problems facing citizens in our democracy, and map out creative solutions from the nexus of policy and technology. Register today.

Tech-savvy Veterans Could Help Ease IT Workforce Challenges

Like many inspired to serve by a day of incalculable loss, Anthony Rubio joined the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, spending two decades in roles that included instructing his fellow soldiers in artillery fire support.

But as he neared his retirement from the military, the teacher became the student, spending two days learning to splice together the fiber optic cable that enables smartphones and other devices to function. “It’s opportunity,” Rubio said. “I want as many skills as I can get, especially in the technology space, because that is where the opportunity lies.”

The free course he took, sponsored by Amazon Web Services (AWS), is one in a slate of Amazon programs designed to educate veterans and transitioning service members so they can rejoin the workforce, especially in technology-related roles. Numerous veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are re-entering the job market, and one National Science Foundation-funded study found that many gravitate to IT, especially the cybersecurity field.

The Feds need them. As the government wrestles with a shortage of technology-skilled workers, the efforts of AWS and other technology leaders to help train military veterans could create a pool of uniquely skilled individuals who are well-positioned to help defense and civilian agencies meet their missions.

And the Biden administration is calling on veterans to serve their government again. Responding to warnings from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and others that the tech skills gap poses major risks for agencies – especially when a large chunk of the Federal workforce is nearing retirement – officials are pursuing veterans and other talent pools to create a new pipeline of skilled leaders.

The Biden-Harris President’s Management Agenda Vision outlined the effort in broad strokes last year, calling for a “talent surge” of Federal workers and singling out cybersecurity and Federal IT as an area of “critical skills gaps.”

Federal agencies are following up, and veterans are among their most sought-after targets.

The Office of Personnel Management operates a website for recruiting veterans and specifically directs them to cybersecurity positions. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency makes the plea even more explicit, writing on its website: “Our nation needs more cybersecurity professionals at all levels, in every organization, and in every region. Veterans and transitioning military personnel who served and protected the nation are very well positioned to transition into these open cybersecurity jobs.”

In the private sector, AWS is doing its part to position veterans for cybersecurity and IT careers. In addition to the AWS Fiber Optic Fusion Splicing Certification Course that Rubio took, AWS offers a technical apprenticeship program that helps veterans and their spouses transition into cloud computing careers. AWS has made more than 1,000 hires through the program.

As part of the apprenticeship program, AWS last year launched a new effort, known as Amazon Military Skillbridge, that gives fellowship and apprenticeship opportunities in a variety of Amazon roles to service members nearing their transition to civilian life.

The company’s efforts come as Congress has created a number of programs aimed at helping veterans enter the civilian workforce. Among them is the 2020 Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act, designed “to promote veteran involvement in STEM education, computer science, and scientific research.”

In support of the law, AWS has committed to educating and hiring veterans and their spouses for jobs focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). AWS is working to provide free cloud skills training to 29 million people around the world by 2025, and parent company Amazon committed to hiring more than 100,000 U.S. veterans and military spouses across Amazon business units by 2024. In describing the hiring commitment, John Quintas, Amazon’s director of global military affairs, pointed to the importance of putting those who served into vital tech roles.

“We value the unique skills and experience that the military community brings – and our new hiring commitment will expand the impact that military members currently have on every single business across the company,” Quintas said.

For information on AWS Training and Certification.

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MeriTalk Staff