In this special edition of Five Questions, we’re highlighting Rush University Medical Center’s En-Abled Veteran, a program that trains military veterans on IT skills, provides hands-on experience in highly sought-after IT services, and helps veterans translate their military experience into marketable skills that lead to employment in the IT field.
With the abundance of experienced veterans returning to civilian life, and the shortage of skilled professionals in many sectors of the IT industry, the En-Abled Veteran program seeks to meet the supply of dedicated veterans with the demand of a hot IT job market. The program was founded in October 2013 by Jaime Parent, VP of IT Operations and Associate CIO at Rush University Medical Center. During our recent conversation, Jaime shared his inspiration for creating the program, his advice to others who wish to follow in his footsteps, and what makes veterans especially valuable to the civilian workforce.
TM: What led you to launch the En-Abled Veteran Program?
JP: I am a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel with the Air Force medical service. Through my experience there, I got to know about military life in general, not just from the member perspective, but from the family perspective as well. We had a special bond between military members who were also away from family outside of the U.S. – this was especially important during the holidays.
At that time, Rush was launching a program called “Road Home” that was a clinic treating military members with PTSD and/or traumatic brain injuries and their families. Seeing a gap between clinical and vocational care, I saw an opportunity to help the veterans after the treatment they received – and that’s how the concept of En-Abled Veteran was born.
I began to approach IT vendors with the idea, and rather than asking them for financial support, I asked what they could do to provide help for the program. They stepped up by providing software, training and other resources, and I started to build a little coalition. I started with Microsoft, and then HP joined, followed by Cisco, Hitachi and NetApp. Some of them gave free us free online training, and other companies that didn’t have training provided other helpful items such as Trend Micro Security licenses that we gave to our participants to use on their home computers. These are small surprises that our veterans don’t expect, so it’s a nice thing for them to receive these companies’ support in all sorts of ways.
I then began building a curriculum and started recruiting veterans from various sources. The program went live in October 2013. We are small in terms of numbers, with 13 participants so far, but we have very positive outcomes. From those 12-13 participants, nine have found employment after the program – not in healthcare IT specifically, but in IT. Based upon internship feedback, we condensed the program from 26 to 13 weeks, and interns are given a stipend of $12.50 per hour. We’re getting good traction in Chicago as a result of our partnership with HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) and our upcoming Veterans Career Services Boot Camp at the HIMSS 2015 Conference.
TM: What kind of aptitudes or skills do veterans have that make them predisposed to work in IT?
JP: A military veteran is exactly the kind of person you want working in your organization for many reasons: they bring integrity, honor, loyalty, project management, ability to work with others, pride in the work they do – in short, they have many valuable characteristics that are generally hard to find in the civilian population. Military men and women have these traits that they’ve developed throughout their careers – the right kind character and moral fabric that anyone would want in their employees.
On the IT side, many have gone through some basic IT training, if not advanced. Some get to do very significant jobs in the military with a lot of accountability and responsibility at a very early age. Young people are often responsible for very important jobs, including being in charge of signal communications or managing a whole computer deployment, or establishment of an electronic medical record. Most of their training is on-the-job, which is transferrable to civilian life. We help them take the skills they already possess and translate them to civilian life by providing them hands-on experience and mock job interviews to help them start their civilian career in IT.
TM: Based on your experience, what are the most in-demand skills in the IT healthcare marketplace?
JP: Even during the recession, there were a lot of jobs in IT that were difficult to fill, and there is high demand still for skills that aren’t plentiful in the marketplace. Skills in web development, advanced database skills with Oracle, web design, senior project management, and working with the electronic medical records – these are all skills that are in high-demand. Integration of data in tech is now at the forefront of healthcare IT, and the military already has electronic medical records, as does the VA, so these military members with experience with medical health records already have transferrable skills that are in high-demand from using the same kinds of tools and building the same kinds of software to move to electronic health records. This hot job market makes it easy to get these veterans employed quickly nationwide in the U.S. We not only have the ability to get them a good job, but also to put them on a path to a new career for the next many years to come. We will need IT healthcare support for decades to come; it’s an exciting job field, and veterans have a lot to offer. We’re simply providing the bridge between their skills and their opportunities in the civilian workforce. We are proud to partner with the clinical Electronic Medical Record, Epic Systems, to provide additional training and resources to our participants.
TM: How do you recruit veterans for the program?
JP: We’ve been able to develop good partnerships within the Chicago area. We have gotten candidates from places like the Veterans Rehabilitation Unit (VRU) at Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago. They have a program to help find jobs for veterans transitioning to civilian life: the national veterans’ network. They offer a training program in network technologies, and we help them get hands-on experience to apply their skills to get them hired.
We also recruit greatly through word of mouth, including through Vet Talk Radio. Some veterans have read about what we do on LinkedIn and have sent me a resume that way. We hope that our recruiting tools will expand. However, we can only keep about four to five veterans at a time in the program due to our resource restrictions and limited facilities and finances. If someone gives us a large gift, donation, or we are awarded a grant, we would love to expand the program. At this point, we are doing very well with the size we have. Our next goal is to target partners in other locations so they can adapt EN-Abled Vet in the communities they live in.
TM: What advice would you give to other IT organizations, healthcare or otherwise, that want to launch similar veteran training programs?
JP: First of all, take a look at the background informative materials I have written, including our website and the video we did with Trend Micro. Most importantly, know with confidence that veterans have the background, skills and character necessary to be an asset to any organization. The En-Abled program has been done with proven outcomes – you, too, can do it! I target healthcare IT organizations because hospitals already, by nature, give back to their communities, and this is a great way to give back to the community in a meaningful way.
I invite anyone interested in launching a similar program to contact me directly; I will be happy to share our curriculum and relationship path with vendors and community partners, as well as lessons learned. This kind of program can be done anywhere in the U.S.; all it takes is a willingness to try, even at a small scale with one person. Helping veterans get started on a career path in IT can make a life-long difference in someone’s life.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
McCormick Place Convention Center | S405
Jaime Parent, VP of IT operations and Associate CIO at Rush University Medical Center, will also present at:
Thursday, April 16, 2015
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
McCormick Place Convention Center | W196A
See how Rush University Medical Center uses Trend Micro solutions to protect their valuable data, and learn more about securing your healthcare environment here.