JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – The Washington Vets to Tech program at St. Martin’s University in Lacey celebrated a milestone achievement Dec. 15 when it graduated its 1,000th student in its 10 years of providing IT training and certifications to veterans preparing to enter the civilian workforce.
Specialist Damien Thomas, an information technology specialist with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was the 1,000th graduate to walk across the graduation stage, receiving his certification in Server and Cloud Application Pathway.
“It’s an honor to be the 1,000th graduate and to be a part of this program,” Thomas said. “The courses were in depth and challenging, but the instructors and faculty members are all very involved and they really help you to succeed. I’m excited to begin my new career.”
For the past decade, the Vets to Tech program has provided JBLM veterans with the key skills and certifications needed to enter in the civilian IT field. Through 16-week courses offered in the spring, summer and fall, students receive face-to-face instruction at Lacey and JBLM campuses, along with job training and professional development from St. Martin’s faculty.
Students also receive assistance from career development managers who help them build a resume, assist in their job search, and prepare them for job interviews to facilitate a smooth transition into their new careers.
To date, the Vets to Tech program has graduated 1,036 veterans, with 77 percent being active duty. The program itself boasts a 93 percent graduation rate, and most graduates transition into a position with an average annual salary of $81,000, according to program officials.
Adam Takata, Washington Vets to Tech director, said opportunities are endless for graduates, and that prior graduates have gone on to work at corporations including Microsoft as software engineers.
Takata credited the success of the program to the dedication of local elected officials, JBLM leaders and corporate partners who he said have worked together to build the program into what it is now.
“Today, we stand on the shoulders of a decade of hard work and dedication,” Takata said.
The program is available to active-duty service members who are within their last six months of service, veterans with an honorable or general discharge, and the spouses of active-duty military or eligible veterans. The program qualifies for VA funding, meaning eligible students could graduate without paying any out-of-pocket expenses.
Colonel Kent Park, JBLM commander, served as keynote speaker at the graduation and as he spoke to the veterans who would soon be ending their military service, he encouraged them to carry with them their drive and passion for serving.
“Service is in your DNA, and it is why you first raised your right hand,” Park said. “Carry that sense of duty forward, and channel your passion into continued service to our nation and our communities. Therein lies the true legacy of your military journey: a commitment to a lifetime of meaningful contributions beyond the uniform.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Spc. Damien Thomas, an information technology specialist with the Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, signs his certificate moments before becoming the 1,000th graduate of the Washington Vets to Tech program at St. Martin’s University in Lacey Dec. 15. (Photo Credit: P
amela Sleezer, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs )
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