It’s not often that a personal interest in technology gets you an invitation to the White House. Then again, Michael Dauffenbach isn’t just another technology hobbyist.
Recently, Dauffenbach, a graduate of CompTIA’s IT-Ready Apprentice Program, joined CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux at a White House gathering with First Lady Michelle Obama. At the event, Mrs. Obama shared results of the Joining Forces program, a national effort to help veterans like Dauffenbach successfully transition into civilian careers.
Dauffenbach, 24, a National Guardsman from Lexington, Minnesota, was working on his associate degree in technology when his unit was called up to serve in Iraq in 2011.
After spending a year as an infantryman helping escort convoys into Kuwait, Dauffenbach returned stateside in early 2012 wondering about his next move. He enrolled in school again, but worried about having the necessary on-the-job experience that would land him a permanent IT position. That’s when he heard about IT-Ready, a training program that would prepare him for a six-month apprenticeship at an area company — just what his resume needed.
Dauffenbach is fortunate; since graduating from the IT-Ready program in Fall 2012, he’s been working at Medtronic as a full-time associate tech on the company’s support desk, resolving IT problems for the company’s 30,000 employees.
But other military veterans have struggled. Until recently, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans tracked much higher than the overall jobless rate.
That’s a discrepancy the Joining Forces program seeks to eliminate. Led by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Joining Forces set a U.S. goal in 2011 of seeing 100,000 veterans transition into civilian jobs. As of today, 290,000 veterans had been hired into American jobs.
After meeting the First Lady, Dauffenbach settled in the audience of 50 or so company heads and military veterans. President Barack Obama said a few words and then handed the microphone to Mrs. Obama. What sticks out in Dauffenbach’s mind are two things the First Couple noted:
- If you can save someone’s life on the battlefield, there’s no reason why you can’t work in a state-of-the-art hospital.
- If you fight for freedom in another land, you shouldn’t have to come home and fight for a job.
As Mrs. Obama told a veterans roundtable with technology leaders, “[Our veterans] do everything. They are medics and engineers, they're drivers, welders. And they are eminently qualified to do the very jobs that employers across this country are desperate to fill. But too often, because of red tape, or outdated rules, or simple lack of coordination, our men and women in uniform come home only to find that the training and experience they’ve gotten during their time in uniform simply doesn’t count.”
“Technology is my passion. It’s something I know I’m good at,” says Dauffenbach, who exudes confidence. “No matter what, technology is always going to be a passion of mine.”
It’s that kind of confidence that makes so many employers glad they have given veterans a chance at a civilian career.