Vets Who Code: combating unemployment & closing the skills gap

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Out of the 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces, what’s the greatest issue these vets face? It might not be what you think. According to Jerome Hardaway, Air Force veteran and founder of Vets Who Code, the biggest issue for the former military personnel is “underemployment.” Historically, veterans have struggled with unemployment, yet in recent years, we’re seeing those unemployment rates go down. However, that doesn’t take away from this issue of underemployment and lack of resources to help veterans before bigger problems exist.

When Jerome left the military he realized just how hard it was for veterans to transition back into civilian life, especially on the career front. Even with a degree, Jerome was having a hard time finding employment. “People weren't hiring me at all,” said Jerome. “My options were to either go back into a government field that required my skills because I was Security Forces, or choose to work at a dead end job, and I didn't like either of those options.” So, Jerome took it upon himself to learn how to program and eventually became a full-stack developer. He has realized how much these technology skills have helped him find a career, and he wanted to help other vets do the same.

Starting Vets Who Code

When thinking about other veteran organizations, Jerome noticed that the majority of them were reactive. "I wondered why everything that is a service to us is reactive. Why isn't it proactive?" said Jerome. Many vets aren’t sure where they’ll fit into the job market or where to apply their military skills. Additionally, getting deployed changes many aspects of life for those who serve and it’s important for vets to know they have options when it comes to coping with post-military life. This is where Jerome had the idea to start Vets Who Code.

Vets Who Code is a non-profit dedicated to closing the digital skills gap and easing career transition for military veterans by teaching them how to code. The organization is a reintegration solution to revitalize early-stage transitioning veterans.

Vets Who Code is focused on being proactive as well as providing quality instruction. They host a 19-week program where they train veterans on how to consult developers while also teaching them how to code. Even though the organization was launched in 2014, it’s already making a memorable impact in veterans’ lives—so far they’ve helped 75 men and women get jobs in software development.

Vets Who Code & Pluralsight

As part of their learning curriculum, Vets Who Code is uses Pluralsight as a supplementation tool in combination with their instructors. Jerome says Pluralsight has helped add legitimacy to their program and helped them grow. “A lot of people view Pluralsight as a more advanced organization in regards to learning about development, but we use Pluralsight in conjunction with our curriculum to help veterans get employed in software development. You just have to know where to look and Pluralsight makes it significantly easier to do that,” said Jerome.

Giving their students the right tools to learn is a huge reason Vets Who Code has been so successful. “Our former students loved it, they thoroughly enjoyed Pluralsight. It helps everybody shore up their skills,” said Jerome. “I don't think we'll ever stop using Pluralsight because it's such a great supplement. It's something that we can give to the veterans to make them feel more valued. It makes them feel like companies outside of us are investing into their education and into their future.”

Closing the skills gap and providing opportunities

Vets Who Code serves as a conversion point and launch pad for these veterans. Many veterans are not homeless or facing mental health issues, but are under-employed. Some have a deep desire to be independent business owners and aspire to progressive career paths. Their skill sets are desperately needed to enhance local economies and drive innovation. 

By being “proactive rather than reactive,” Vets Who Code is helping veterans with unemployment challenges while working to close the skills gap. “We want to make a dent in this problem. While the media tends to highlight more polarizing problems such as PTSD and suicide, veterans more commonly experience severe rates of unemployment and underemployment due to lack of professional relationships and being less valued by HR managers,” said Jerome. “Even though it's improved over the last several years, veterans are still the number one unemployed demographic in the country, and we focus on being a part of that solution.” And that’s exactly what Jerome and Vets Who Code is working toward. Learn more about this inspiring organization here.

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Miranda Romero

Miranda is a communications specialist at Pluralsight. She’s an avid writer and big supporter of online learning. She joined Pluralsight as a Public Relations intern and was able to turn her passion for tech into a communications career. Miranda enjoys arts & crafts and wine tasting, occasionally at the same time.