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MSSA graduate urges Congress to support tech careers for service members

Testifying before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Bernard Bergan, technical account manager at Microsoft, advocated for changes in federal policy that support increased participation from industry, government and nonprofit organizations as a path to IT employment for transitioning service members. Bergan spoke May 17 to the nine members of this subcommittee in Washington, D.C., and urged them to provide increased legislation that would support veteran programs such as Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) on and off military installations across the country.

“Microsoft has made a life-altering investment in my career and the careers of hundreds of U.S. military veterans around the country,” Bergan told the subcommittee. “Those of us in the private sector must provide more service members and veterans access to opportunities that will change the trajectory of their lives, like Microsoft did with me.”

A former Army service member, in 2014 Bergan became one of the first graduates of MSSA, an intensive 18-week course at multiple bases across the country that provides active duty U.S. service members with the career skills necessary to meet the IT industry’s high demand for talent.

Photo of Bernard Bergan and Chairman Brad Wenstrup
“More work is required” to train service members for civilian IT careers, Microsoft’s Bernard Bergan (left) testified before the House subcommittee and Chairman Brad Wenstrup (right).

He urged Congress to work with the Department of Defense and its military base commanders to broaden acceptance of its SkillBridge programs at more bases across the country. He noted potential cost savings for the military when more service members are able to secure meaningful civilian employment, thereby reducing unemployment insurance costs for their respective branch of service.

Further, he recommended the committee engage with technology companies and encourage them to train and hire veterans in new areas, such as cybersecurity, where demand is high and a significant shortage of critical IT workers exists. He said, “More work is required to provide greater access to these skills training and job opportunities.”

He noted that “Microsoft’s goal is to train and find IT careers for 5,000 service members over the next five years.” As part of this effort the company envisions a community-based model for MSSA that will offer evening courses, making them more available to working military spouses who may want to make a career change.

Bergan urged lawmakers to support policies that train military service members for IT careers.
Bergan urged lawmakers to support policies that train military service members for IT careers.

The MSSA program has graduated more than 325 veterans from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Fort Hood and Camp Pendleton, of which 92 percent are presently working in high-paying careers in the IT industry with an average starting salary of more than $70,000. Microsoft has plans to bring the program to an additional eight communities over the next 18 months, serving 14 military installations across the country.

MSSA is a joint effort of Microsoft and its educational partner, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Skills acquired at MSSA are not Microsoft specific, but rather industry-recognized credentials that apply to a wide variety of rewarding IT occupations.

Watch the hearing on “Veterans in Tech: Innovative Careers for All Generations of Veterans” here.