Rae Garcia was active duty Air Force for six years, serving as a staff sergeant and intelligence analyst, where she had the opportunity to work on diverse projects and programs from cyber security to national defense.
"Prior to joining the Air Force, I had not considered a future in tech, but through my active duty experiences and the opportunity to participate in this rotational apprenticeship with Amazon, I definitely see a future in this space," Garcia said.
She is participating in the AWS Intelligence Initiative Program, part of the Amazon Technical Apprenticeship Program, or ATAP, which helps veterans transition into entry-level tech roles in cloud computing. She was matched to the job of dedicated cloud analyst apprentice using the Amazon Military Skills Translator, or MST, program, which launched in February 2022.
According to Beau Higgins, senior manager of Military Talent Acquisition at Amazon, the company improves the lives of military veterans and their families globally by delivering a range of programs to address critical challenges facing the military community with a focus on employment, employee development and caring for veterans in need - including ATAP, the SkillBridge program, the Diversity and Hiring program, and others.
"Just last year, we pledged to hire over 100,000 U.S. veterans and military spouses by 2024, building on our commitment to military families after far exceeding our pledge to hire 25,000 by 2021," Higgins said.
As of early August 2022, Amazon has used the MST platform to hire 128 veterans and their spouses. The platform's AI-capabilities help easily translate military occupational specialties into tangible skills that align with roles at Amazon, said Higgins.
As a leader in technical recruitment solutions, Oplign, whose mission is to "Get America Working," was a natural partner in helping Amazon achieve this goal. "They have developed a customized skills-mapping platform, unique to Amazon, that matches eligible candidates to open roles in the company," Higgins said.
Michael Grow, CEO at Oplign, said, "Amazon recognizes the important role veterans play in their operation, but because of the huge volume of applicants, their talent acquisition staff would be swamped on a daily basis. In our early conversations, Military Affairs Senior Manager Beau Higgins asked for a 'people-sorter,' and we guess that's what we gave him through our AI-driven tool, which we continue to optimize for Amazon."
Oplign, a veteran-owned and operated company, works because it works for everyone, service member or not, said Grow. "However, veterans and transitioning service members have an additional challenge beyond that of civilians in that their skills, experiences and certifications are similar to what you'd find in the civilian workforce, but are worded differently or are on technology systems that don't exist in the civilian world.
"This is a huge challenge for both companies and the veteran to overcome and it is often easier for companies to simply ignore veterans," he said. "All the founders of the firm struggled with our military transition in one way or another, so we understand the stress it puts on veterans and their families."
"The transition from active duty to civilian can be daunting," Garcia said, "but Amazon has created a process that helped me go from job seeker to job offer in about three weeks - this was invaluable for me. I am proud to be part of a positive work environment where people look forward to going to work every day. This makes me excited to be here, and I look forward to being an advocate for other veterans to join the program."