Service members transitioning to civilian careers gain technology skills

In this courtesy photo, Charles Carter, left, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University adjunct professor, leads a Microsoft Software and Systems Academy class on cloud application development. (Photo courtesy of Terry Horne, Fort Benning MSSA program manager)

By Beth Jarvis, MSSA East Coast Base Engagement manager, and
Terry Horne, Fort Benning MSSA program manager

FORT BENNING, Ga. (Sept. 22, 2017) – The Army Continuing Education Center here is offering Soldiers transitioning to civilian life an 18-week course to advance their technological skills.

The program, Microsoft Software and Systems Academy, is in partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to help service members gain the skills required for information technology and science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers prior to transitioning to civilian life.

MSSA provides the skills for jobs server and cloud administration, database and business intelligence administration, cloud application development, and cybersecurity administrators. At Fort Benning, the learning path is Cloud Application Development. MSSA is also one of few industry programs that trains active-duty U.S. service members for tech jobs.

MSSA is also part of the DoD Skillbridge program, an initiative that helps service members transitioning into civilian life find employment.

“Veterans are exactly the type of talent we are looking for to evolve the face of IT beyond the traditional four-year degree,” said Chris Cortez, vice president of Microsoft Military Affairs. “They are trained to quickly assess, analyze and fix a situation with the resources at hand while working with a diverse group of people as a team.

“Who better to bring into a company to create a diverse and inclusive workforce, expand the way we solve problems, and fuel creativity than folks who are adept in the skills that are incredibly applicable to the IT industry,” continued Cortez.

The MSSA program was launched on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington in 2013, and to date more than 625 service members have passed through the course and have secured careers with an average salary of $70,000. This year the program is projected to expand to nine regions, servicing 14 bases and posts across the U.S. There is a 91 percent graduation rate, and more than 200 companies outside of Microsoft are hiring MSSA graduates.

There are two components to the MSSA program – technical training and soft skills training that include resume writing, mock interviews, networking and setting up LinkedIn accounts. Upon successful completion, MSSA graduates have the opportunity to interview with Microsoft or at one of the more than 200 different hiring partners, including Dell, Amazon Web Services, Accenture, the Department of Defense, Facebook and many more.

“MSSA helped me to develop the technical and professional skills to achieve success in the software engineering industry,” said Justin Ridings, Fort Benning graduate of the program and former electronics maintenance supervisor for 703rd Base Support Battalion, Fort Stewart, Georgia. “MSSA also helped me to develop the soft skills that are necessary for success outside of the military.”

After his graduation, Microsoft hired Ridings as a software engineer.

“A ton of my military family are interested in the IT field when they reach the end of their service,” said Riding. “I truly think this is the strongest program available to help people out.”

“It gave me a solid introduction into the software world: From coding to Enterprise storage solutions, the topics covered were very relevant to the IT field,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Horejsi, 4th Ranger Training Battalion.

Horejsi accepted an offer from Sterling Computers as a software engineer and applications administrator.

“The recruiter who contacted me initially from Sterling Computers was primarily interested in my C# experience, which was gained from the MSSA program,” said Horejsi. “This and my resume being in tip-top form is what helped me get an interview for a well-respected company.”

The next MSSA cohort at Fort Benning is scheduled to launch Feb. 15, 2018, and is currently open for enrollment. Veterans are also welcome to apply. To be eligible, a service member must be leaving active duty or have recently left the service in good standing. They must have a passion for technology, meet admissions requirements and gain a Microsoft Technology Associate certification administered by Microsoft.

Virtual briefings are offered every Wednesday from 12:30 to 1 p.m. To gain access to an information session on this day/time, click here:

Service members can also contact ERAU associate director at 706-505-1101 or at for more information.

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