Mike Ziobro spent four years in the Marine Corps as a light armored vehicle mechanic, but initially struggled to find his role in the civilian world.
“Becoming a civilian again can sometimes be tougher than it sounds,” said Ziobro, who was an E-5 when he transitioned to civilian life in 2010. He held a handful of different jobs, including bartending and being a licensed boat captain, but it wasn’t until he found the National Institute for Innovation and Technology’s apprenticeship program that he found a career he loved.
The program helps veterans find careers in the tech industry, including semiconductor and nanotechnology careers. In Ziobro’s case, it helped him find his current role as a toolmaker at Indium Corporation.
“It hasn’t been until recently that I feel I have truly found my dream job,” said Ziobro.
The NIIT is charged with making sure that strategic industry sectors, those important to our nation’s security and global competitiveness, have what they need to thrive and lead in innovation, according to Mike Russo, president and CEO.
“There is simply not enough talent to keep up with tech-based industries, so reaching populations who have not traditionally been engaged is key in broadening the pipeline,” said Russo.
Connecting with veterans
Returning service members and veterans have many of the foundational skills that are needed to succeed in these industries; however they are often overlooked because more traditional approaches and systems used for hiring do not appropriately apply credit for their military experience, Russo said.
“Through our state-of-the-art National Talent Hub, we provide returning service members and veterans tools to align their skills with careers in the semiconductor industry. This not only helps address the workforce shortfall in these high-value industries, it also helps pay the debt of gratitude we owe those who served by acknowledging their service to our country and providing lucrative career opportunities that leverage past military experience,” he said. Veterans can create a cost-free profile in The National Talent Hub | NIIT (niit-usa.org).
Dr. Pam Howze, director of national workforce strategies at NIIT, says that when she left the military a number of years ago, there were no programs to help her find gainful employment.
“Even though there are currently a number of existing resources to assist transitioning service members with career development, it is often difficult for our veterans to navigate these tools and apply the skills they gained in the military to civilian careers,” she said. NIIT offers a variety of tools for veterans to do just that.
“For instance, VetConnect is NIIT’s program that helps returning service members, veterans and their families leverage their valuable experience while seeking careers in industry sectors important to our national security and global competitiveness. Through the NIIT National Talent Hub, veterans can align their skills with careers and identify any potential gaps,” Howze said.
Build on training, soft skills
Russo says that skills learned in the military that would help soldiers transition into the semiconductor and nanotechnology fields include advanced manufacturing skills in hydraulics, pneumatics, statistical process control, HVAC and chemical and materials handling. Soft skills like leadership, team building and problem solving are attributes desired by nanotechnology companies.
“My job now is a far cry from the combat and physical preparedness I received during my time as a Marine,” said Ziobro. “What has carried over, however, is professionalism, the ability to overcome challenges and adapt to any situation that might arise in the workplace, and the familiarity of working as one team toward a common goal.”
The National Talent Hub provides an opportunity to explore careers across geographic sectors.
“As I navigated my career after serving in the military, I know a resource like the National Talent Hub would have been a huge benefit,” Howze says. Veterans are accustomed to moving for their careers and oftentimes they are looking for opportunities to return to their home states.
“Our Veteran’s Fellowship Program was designed for returning service members and is meant to take into account unique factors facing veterans as they return to civilian life. Participants become ‘NIIT Fellows’ rather than apprentices, and programs are designed to help veterans leverage the skills gained during military service,” she said.
Providing career opportunities in strategic industries to veterans and returning service members is a key priority for NIIT, according to Russo. NIIT focuses on continually refining and tailoring its programs to help ensure they meet the needs of veterans.
NIIT has done that for Ziobro. “My new career, along with the assistance of the apprenticeship program, has really sparked my desire again to be part of a team and better myself,” he said.