Unemployment rates for veterans under 24 years old continue to surpass those of their civilian peers by more than 7 percent, according to the recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
San Diego State University’s Troops to Engineers SERVICE Program is combating those statistics.
Initially funded by the National Science Foundation in 2011, and now supported by industry partnerships and government collaborations, the program has placed 100 percent of its students — 150 in total — into paid internships and new careers.
“Student-veterans are an excellent source of engineers and scientists at a time when our country needs them,” said Patricia Reily, a former Navy commander, who has led the program for three years.
“As a result of their time in the military, student veterans have learned skills and developed discipline; they are mature, focused and team players. We place the student-veterans in paid internships with top industry employers and they take it from there. Nine times out of 10, they receive job offers where they intern.”
Success in the classroom and the workforce
According to Reily, student-veterans have unique technical experience, maintain high GPA’s and earn their degrees at a faster rate than their non-veteran classmates, making them highly qualified for internships and jobs.
“They bring terrific practical examples of engineering theory into the classroom,” she said. “They are accustomed to working hard so when in an internship they gain confidence and positive recognition for their diligence.”
Darren George, a Navy veteran and electrical engineering major, interned at both Linear Corporation in Carlsbad and San Diego Gas & Electric. He said he was able to apply what he learned in the Navy and in the program at SDSU to be successful in his internship.
George, who aspires to a career in “power engineering,” landed his dream job at SDG&E where he will begin working after he graduates next month.
“It is really nice to know that I will be stepping into an awesome job after I cross that stage at graduation,” George said.
Jack Powell, a Marine Corps veteran who is also majoring in electrical engineering, will graduate next month with a 4.0 GPA. He has been accepted to multiple graduate schools and intends to get his Ph.D.
“If anyone told me four years ago, when I was in Iraq, that I would be going to graduate school in electrical engineering at SDSU and working at Northrop Grumman, I would have said ‘you’re crazy!’ And here I am doing it,” Powell said.
Powell will attend graduate school in Los Angeles and has accepted an internship at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena this summer — but hasn’t ruled out returning to Northrop Grumman after graduate school.
Industry partners continue to help make the SDSU Troops to Engineers SERVICE Program a success.
“This is a program that delivers results,” said Frank Flores, vice president, Unmanned Systems, Northrop Grumman.
Through paid internships and new graduate positions, industry and government support has come from numerous organizations. Some of the program’s most recent top supporters include:
Outside of Troops to Engineers in SDSU's College of Engineering, the university supports the success of veteran and military students through a variety of programs, including the nation’s first Student Veterans House and the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center, an on-campus resource center to aid student-veterans in their academic endeavors.