Creating a #Veterans Code Brigade

Transitioning military servicemembers and #veterans know how to look at problems from multiple perspectives, break them down into workable pieces, and then develop creative solutions. Those skills and learning to code can expand their career opportunities.


By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available in the United States, but only about 400,000 people to fill them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wait… What?

Yes, within six years America will have a million-person talent deficit in computer science and programming.

How is that possible? When we lost manufacturing jobs we were told tech jobs would stay; that these were American jobs. But the demands of the 21st-century economy have increased in both volume and velocity, and our education programs have not kept up. Only one in ten high schools teaches computer science in America, and 31 of 50 states don’t count computer science classes as credit toward high school math or science requirements, so where’s the incentive? Perhaps even more disconcerting is that of the 30,000 students who took the AP computer science exam in 2013, less than 20% were female, 3% were African American, and 8% were Latino.

Given the impending significant reductions in DoD spending, which include a reduction in personnel to levels not seen since before WWII, many returning servicemembers and their families will be transitioning and reintegrating back into society. They joined the military from high school or in the middle of their undergraduate studies. They sacrificed the traditional college years to serve in uniform. But much has changed since they first joined the military thirteen years ago. We experienced the dot com bubble, a recovery, the attack of 9/11, a housing bubble and financial crisis, and now the drawdown of forces and the effects of sequestration and an unclear debate on future budgets and force reductions.

So, now what?

Brigades of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are coming home, and they are filled with exceptional men and women with diverse experiences who spent the last decade solving fluid problems; breaking them down to workable pieces and then finding creative solutions.

That is what computer science and coding is all about.

Veterans are not a monolithic group. Some need long-term healthcare, some want to go to school, and some may go straight to work — but all want to find balance. And while many veterans will choose further education, most will need to work while going to school to support themselves and their families — families who have also made tremendous sacrifices.

Employment is a common issue for transitioning servicemembers, veterans, and their families. What job will support me and my family while I am earning a degree to get a better job to support me and my family?

Code.org’s, “What Most Schools Don’t Teach”

Our world has changed. Technology touches everything in our lives. As the speed of technology increases, business leaders place more emphasis on performance and skills than on academic pedigree. If you can code a project better than someone else, you’re more likely to get the job whether you went to Stanford or the NCO Leadership Academy. The tech field is far more meritorious than other fields. In fact, today at Google, nearly 14% of their teams have people with no college education at all.

According to a recent report on American jobs, 1 in 9 Americans works in retail with an average salary of $38,000.

But, according to a report by Dice.com, if you can program in R, your average annual salary could be about $115k. How about NoSQL? $114k. MapReduce? $114k. Amazon Web Services? $108k.

What if we filled those jobs with veterans? Tens of thousands of them; Hundreds of thousands of them, and their spouses, the widows of our fallen, and the children and caregivers of our most seriously wounded— people of integrity, creativity, and passion, with great learning agility and serious problem-solving and teamwork skills.

What if we created a Veterans Code Brigade?

If we sent every passionate and qualified veteran, Gold Star spouse or child, and caregiver to any number of available computer programming and coding immersion programs, we would have brigades of undeniable talent leading the charge into our new economy.

What if we brought these immersion programs to our wounded, ill, and injured and their families while they are in recovery? What if every one of the leading computer science and coding programs listed here accepted GI Bill benefits, and what if the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expedited processing these programs into it’s system?

We could get more veterans, spouses, and Gold Star families into higher-paying careers, faster and keep tens of thousands (or more) of programming jobs in America.

There are many intensive 8-12 week immersion programs that can teach veterans the skills they need to become entry-level coders and inspire them toward new computer science careers.

At the FlatIron School, they teach you to “grok” Ruby in 12 weeks. If you find a job through their placement program, they refund $4k of your tuition.

General Assembly has both full-time and part-time programs in web development, user experience design, and a host of other classes and workshops.

But if you’re not in a position to do an 8-12 week immersion program, you can still try coding on your own terms. Go to Code.org’s Hour of Code or to Khan Academy or Code Academy and try out the basics for free. Want more of a classroom experience? Go to EdX and take Harvard’s CS50x course, Introduction to Computer Science or MIT’s 6.00x Introduction to Computer Science and Programming class for free.

But whatever you do, do it now. Why?

The need for computer science and programming professionals is growing at two times our current ability to meet that demand, and if that remains true, America will be forced to look to the world to fill the jobs, and we’ve felt that pain before.

Computer science and coding immersion programs offer veterans, families, and caregivers excellent training with flexible schedules that can lead to promising and lucrative careers. They fuel a passion for technology, for creativity, and for the future.

That’s pretty cool.

Here is a list of some of the more popular and well-known programs available today to veterans:

TreeHouse General Assembly

StartUp Institute Hack Reactor

Starter League FlatIron School

Khan Academy Code.org

Code Academy EdX CodeSchool

Chris Taylor, a former enlisted infantryman and Force Recon Marine, is Founder & CEO of the Novitas Group— a VA-certified service-disabled veteran-owned small business.