The USO and Coursera Team Up to Educate and Assist a Soldier Transitioning to Civilian Life

For many of the 200,000 service members who make the shift to civilian life each year, there’s a shared uncertainty about their future careers.

“If you know anyone who doesn’t have concerns about going from the military to civilian life, well I’d like to meet that person,” quipped U.S. Army Capt. Phillip Hall. “The civilian workplace is a totally different world, and you want to land somewhere that is worthwhile for you and your family.”

The transition out of the military and back into civilian life can be jarring for service members and their families. When service members are searching for a new job outside of the Armed Forces, they can sometimes find it difficult to translate their military experience onto a civilian resume. Service members also can have trouble simply determining what type of career would best align with their skills and experience, making it even more difficult to even know where to start.

Then, once they’ve found a civilian job, they must now adjust to a completely different way of working. Many service members struggle to go from a structured, process-driven work environment to a more relaxed office space. Even when they’ve reached the finish line, transitioning to a civilian workforce can still be difficult.

That is why it is crucial to support our nation’s military before they even reach that finish line, equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to tackle their next challenge in the civilian world head-on. That’s where the USO and Coursera – one of the largest online learning platforms in the world – come in.

The Journey from Service Member to Software Engineer

You could say that Hall was born to serve. Both of his parents were stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, serving in the U.S. Army when he made his way into the world.

Hall joined the Army right after earning a degree in mechanical engineering from The John Hopkins University, so his current job search process presents a completely new challenge. He spent nine years in the Army, with four of those years in special forces and six months deployed to the Middle East. Among all of the admirable of valuable skills he gained, they weren’t going to put him on the route to a career in software engineering — his desired goal.

Photo credit Courtesy Photo

“If you know anyone who doesn’t have concerns about going from the military to civilian life, well I’d like to meet that person,” U.S. Army Capt. Phillip Hall quipped, referring to the challenges many service members face when transitioning out of the military.

During the Army’s mandatory transition program, he researched different opportunities to help him with the process of leaving the military and that’s when he discovered the USO Pathfinder® Transition Program and its partnership with Coursera.

Through the USO’s partnership with Coursera, thousands of service members like Hall can prepare for fulfilling and financially rewarding careers through Coursera’s certifications program.

Coursera offers online professional certifications to service members and their spouses, in fields that include information technology, marketing, sales development, education and data analytics.

In most instances, the Army only allows professional development courses to begin within a 6-month window prior to leaving service, but with the Coursera program, he was able to begin earlier. Hall quickly jumped into a course and earned an IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate through Coursera in just three months while also completing his last several months of service.

In addition to all of these responsibilities and military duties, he also managed to spend time with his wife and two young children. When his 2-year-old-daughter and 6-month-old son would hit the hay for the night, he would hit the books. Coursera’s online program allowed him the flexibility to attend classes anywhere.

“There’s no easy way to make more hours in the day,” Hall said, but he made it happen.

Being able to complete the Coursera certificate program even before he had officially left service provided Hall with a jumpstart on his civilian job search.

“The primary goal was being able to add something of value to my resume. That was the main thing,” he said.

“The other objective was to gain additional skills, because I was unsure in what career I was going to land in at that point. I was interested in broadening my skill set as much as possible to make myself a more marketable candidate in the civilian workforce.”

The challenges of balancing military service, his young family and Coursera’s professional training have paid off. A job as a software engineer with a defense contractor awaits Hall when he and his family leave Fort Campbell in Kentucky to move to the coastal town of Melbourne, Florida.

The USO’s Coursera Partnership

Coursera connects service members and their spouses to high-quality educational opportunities with certifications from some of the world’s best-known companies:

- Google IT Support Professional Certificate

- Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate

- Salesforce Sales Development Representative Professional Certificate

- IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate

- Arizona State University TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Professional Certificate

- Making Transition a Transformation – a USO Course on Coursera, created alongside Coursera, Cory Boatwright and Freedom Learning

These free professional certifications play a key role in the USO Pathfinder® Transition Program, which provides customized support at any time in a service member or military spouse’s career, including action plans, programs and resources focused on job-seeking, education, financial readiness and mentorship.

Through the USO’s Coursera partnership, service members and their spouses know that the USO will continue to be by their sides, both throughout their time in service and as they transition from the military.

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