The men and women of the armed forces have served our country well. They have demonstrated selfless service and mastery in the field, but those who seek to transition to a civilian career often face real challenges.

In 2011, first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of the US vice president, launched the Joining Forces program, a nonpartisan, national initiative to provide service members, veterans and their families with the tools and resources they need to succeed throughout their lives. When Joining Forces was launched, the unemployment rate for the 9/11-generation of veterans was more than 12 percent. Almost one in three of the youngest veterans who wanted to work could not find a job.

Today, more than 1.2 million veterans and military spouses have been hired or trained.

Another important initiative is Veterans on Wall Street (VOWS), which honors former and current military personnel by facilitating career and business opportunities in the financial services industry.

According to a recent report, estimates put the current number of employable veterans on the employment sidelines at approximately 8.5 million. In addition, close to 350,000 personnel transition from active military service to veteran status each year.

Unemployment among post-9/11 veterans is decreasing, but it is still higher than the overall national unemployment rate. While this is not a new insight or challenge, these highly qualified service members and veterans are either unaware of the jobs available or unable to translate their military experience into something meaningful to civilian employers.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) believes that the project management profession is not only a solution, it is an ideal career for military veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce. In fact, most veterans have already managed projects and programs.

These are just a few of the skills that someone who has served in the armed forces will find are directly transferable to the project management profession:

  • class="MsoNormal">Leading cross-functional teams to ensure accomplishment of mission objectives (strategic leadership skill).
  • class="MsoNormal">Managing budgets, scheduling activities and technical components (technical skills).
  • class="MsoNormal">Conflict mediation and performance appraisal (soft skills).
  • class="MsoNormal">Experience in operationalizing projects plans from inception to actual delivery in a variety of environments (mission accomplishment mindset).

This represents the perfect intersection of skills and demand. Military service members and veterans have the personal and performance competencies to succeed in the project management profession. As for demand, PMI research shows that this is one of the fastest growing careers in the world and the need cuts across all industry sectors. An estimated 1.5 million new careers will be created in the project management profession each year until 2020, with too few qualified individuals to fill them.

It is also a very rewarding career path, enabling people to hone the skills necessary for leadership and management. And it’s financially rewarding — our research shows that the average annual private sector salary for certified project managers in the U.S. is $105,000.

As a proud supporter of the White House’s Joining Forces program, PMI is formalizing its dedication to the career paths of service members and veterans. PMI’s new program, Preparing U.S. Military for a Project Management Careeris designed specifically to aid veterans, active duty military, Guard and Reserve in transitioning to civilian employment in the project management profession. PMI’s policy work has made it possible for service members to make use of education assistance funding, including the Post-9/11 GI Bill, to obtain certifications in the project management profession.

There are eight professional certifications, with the most recognized as the Project Management Professional. Globally recognized and industry portable, these certifications provide a great opportunity for military and veterans to cross-walk their skills and make an instant impact.

Through VOWS, PMI is collaborating with Citigroup’s Citi Salutes initiative to help increase the opportunity for veterans to be hired beyond traditional equity roles, securing positions in the project management-related backbone of Citigroup's business.

In our project-driven world, a growing number of organizations are recognizing the value of having a workforce skilled in delivering successful projects and business outcomes. Helping service members and veterans find rewarding careers is a win for everyone. The Qualify for Hire program will help the men and women who have served our country well, while also providing businesses with a larger talent pool equipped with unique expertise to help organizations maximize business outcomes.

Jordon Sims is director of organization relations and programs for the Project Management Institute.

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