Sheila Sanders was ready to take a position with U.S. Steel
Group in Pittsburgh when Ameritech Corp.'s offer came in the mail.
One look at the benefits package, including a $10,000
salary increase, was enough to convince the former first-class petty officer to pack her
bags and two bulldogs and move to Ohio for a managerial job at the regional phone company.
"I'm extremely happy with Ameritech," said
Sanders, 38. "Nobody can touch this offer."
Sanders said she owes her new job in large part to the
people at The Center for Military and Private Sector Initiatives, a private, nonprofit
organization dedicated to helping military personnel find jobs in the civilian sector and
transition into nonmilitary life.
Established in 1995 to help translate the military's
4,000 job classifications into layman's terms, the New York-based center currently
has a growing database of 500,000 veterans who are leaving the military.
Through their military training, many of them have
technical backgrounds that lend themselves to companies working in broadband
telecommunications, both cable and wireless.
"This is really a source of a hidden talent pool in
this country," said Rear Admiral Anthony Watson, the center's CEO.
Following the downsizing of military personnel since the
end of the 1991 Gulf War, approximately 240,000 veterans will enter the private sector
annually through 2003, according to center statistics. Many would be well suited to fill
the shortage of 300,000 information-technology specialists the United States is facing.
Yet most ex-military personnel are overlooked by high-tech
companies and the people in charge of hiring, Watson said.
Part of the problem is that many former military folk have
a hard time getting through the front door. Like Sanders, most outgoing military personnel
have not drafted a resume in years. When they do, they use military lingo that is alien to
civilian human-resources managers.
For instance, not many would know that a radioman is really
a person who has learned about broadband and packet-data switching, Watson said.
As a result, thousands of resumes from military folk end up
in the trash at major high-tech corporations, making it hard for many to find work
suitable to their skill level.
Watson said 80% of the veterans placed in jobs two years
ago were earning less than $20,000 per year. Overall, military personnel laid off since
the Gulf War suffer more than 70 percent underemployment.
To help even the odds, the center is concentrating its
efforts on seeking out individuals who would be the best match for high-tech companies, he
said. Topping the list are people with technical backgrounds.
Typically, center personnel will meet with CEOs and other
key personnel to understand companies' professional DNA, Watson said. Watson himself
has traveled the country speaking to heads of corporations, explaining what technical
skills military people can bring to the table.
"We have our own marketing plan to connect with
companies that have laid out their priority and those that have technological needs,"
he said. "Having identified the DNA, we go to the appropriate bases in the world. We
will mine down to the appropriate people to find exactly what they need."
Candidates are then flown to forums around the country
where they meet with company representatives, many of whom are ready to make job offers on
The center also offers companies a two-year guarantee: If
the person who is hired leaves for any reason during that period, the center will find a
Along with Ameritech, companies that have hired outgoing
military personnel include AT&T Corp., U S West and RCN Corp.