This is not the dollar amount a startup received in funding, nor is it an estimated valuation. It’s the number of U.S. veterans that are believed to have been unemployed last year. As many of our soldiers return home after serving our country, they face a new challenge: finding a way back to civilian life.
A number of companies have publicly offered support to veterans, including Home Depot, Walmart, and Microsoft. Some are not only hiring veterans, but providing key training to help them get jobs that are worthy of their skills and experience.
In 2014, enterprise cloud computing provider Salesforce started an initiative called VetForce with the goal of helping 10,000 men and women in the armed forces land jobs. The idea is this: provide veterans with free Salesforce.com training and then place them in a position that will help get them readjusted to civilian life. To date, the company tells VentureBeat that over 1,000 veterans have gone through the training.
For Salesforce senior vice president Dan Streetman, helping veterans is personal — he is one. He left military service after serving with the 3-325th Airborne Battalion and 3rd Infantry Division in 1998. Streetman went on to get his MBA from Harvard Business School before moving out to Silicon Valley. He was called back into active duty years later to serve a tour in Iraq. It was during this period that he witnessed the difficulties veterans face after returning.
It was easier for Streetman because he had previously worked in the civilian sector, but it was still hard. When he was in Iraq, he served with soldiers that had been deployed 3 or 4 times, and he came to appreciate how important it was to help men and women who have spent their entire adult lives either deployed or preparing for the next deployment.
According to Salesforce, being trained in its product generates a significant bump in salary. It’s said that the average Salesforce administrator makes around $60,000 annually. This is much higher than the $43,370 that the average veteran is estimated to receive, according to a 2012 study by Ithaca College that looked at economic and health dynamics for returning veterans.
It’s easy to think about VetForce as a Salesforce bid to promote its customer relationship management platform, but the program really is more about helping those that have proudly served this country get back on their feet. Salesforce has a big part of the market (estimated to be 18.4 percent by some accounts) and is still growing — it reached a $6 billion revenue run rate in its fiscal 2016 year, and that figure is projected to increase further.
Through VetForce, veterans not only receive free training (average cost is $4,500) and certification, but they also receive mentoring and job placement assistance. This includes one-on-one interviews with executives from not only Salesforce but partners such as General Electric, Uber, Starbucks, Mitchell International, as well as a host of service organizations like Vets in Tech, Veteran Staffing Network, Blue Star Families, Veterans Workshop, the Wounded Warriors Project, Hire Our Heroes, and others.
“VetForce is a community. It’s not a one-time thing,” Streetman said. “People can sign up, share insights with each other, access Salesforce training, take admin exams, and get placed with companies. There are people who celebrate their victories with one another.”
At Dreamforce, senior executives will spend part of their afternoon participating in DreamLift, aboard four CH-47 Chinook helicopters that will fly them out to Moffett Federal Airfield. It’s there attendees receive a glimpse of the technical expertise of the returning veterans and can see how those skills could apply to their companies.
Salesforce says it’ll also host an executive summit that will let veterans meet with these business leaders to get a better assessment of their resumes and career paths. Lastly, there’s going to be a career fair with representatives from General Electric, Uber, Starbucks, and Mitchell International to hire veterans.
Although the company has a goal of helping 10,000 veterans find work, Streetman said there’s no timeline for achieving this. However, by the time Dreamforce returns to San Francisco in 2016, he hopes to be “at least halfway to our goal.”