Career Watch: Using IT to give disabled vets a boost

By Computerworld staff, Computerworld |  Career, IT jobs, Tech & society

Fresh Start for Disabled Veterans

Thanks to a program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, dozens of veterans are being trained to become Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technicians.

The project was initiated in April 2005, when U.S. Army officials discovered that soldiers were getting discharged with very few job skills, says Carl Stephenson, a contractor from Axiom Resource Management Inc. who was assigned to Walter Reed as the IT training program coordinator/ instructor and designer. So Walter Reed partnered with Microsoft on a training initiative, and pilot classes began in October 2006.

Early on, Stephenson realized that Microsoft's training materials were written for people with one to three years of previous computer experience, whereas most of the injured veterans in the program knew only how to surf the Web and send e-mail. To bridge the gap, Stephenson redesigned the hands-on lab guide, adding more screenshots and steps for each lab. He also changed the layout of the guide so students could more easily follow the flow of each exercise.

The program was a success, with several servicemen and servicewomen passing their first exams for the MCDST certification. But another problem soon became apparent: Many of those participants were unable to complete advanced levels because they had been discharged from the hospital and had moved out of the area.

In response, Stephenson created a distance-learning program, using WebEx Communications Inc.'s virtual classroom software and other collaboration tools. "We had classes with three students who were on convalescent leave, and it was incredibly successful," says Stephenson.

He says Walter Reed expects to have 100 students in the program by this fall. And Stephenson is now involved in a pilot program with the Veterans Administration to allow participation by students who were discharged before the program began.

"It means so much to be able to help so many soldiers ... and not allow them to fall through the cracks," says Stephenson. -- Thomas Hoffman

Next, Please

HR managers offer the wackiest interview blunders they've seen.

The most common detrimental mistakes candidates can make during job interviews:

Dress inappropriately 51%
Speak negatively about a current or former employer 49%
Appear disinterested 48%
Seem arrogant 44%
Fail to provide specific answers 30%
Fail to ask good questions 29%

Source: online survey of over 3,000 hiring managers and HR professionals, 2008

Would you hire someone who told you during the interview that he was fired for beating up his boss?

Probably not, and the human resources professional who told this story agreed: This is not a good candidate. In the 2008 version of its annual survey of HR pros and hiring managers on interview do's and don'ts, also presented these true stories -- all surefire ways to not get hired:

-- Take a call on your cell phone and then ask the interviewer to leave her own office because it's a private conversation.
-- Tell the interviewer you won't be able to stay with the job long because you might get an inheritance if your uncle dies, and he's "not looking good."
-- Turn down an offer of food because you don't want to line your stomach with grease before going out drinking.
-- Flush the toilet during a telephone interview.

Unhappy Execs

While 61% of high-level executives are satisfied with their current jobs, there's less satisfaction among IT professionals. According to recruiter ExecuNet Inc.'s June survey of 1,597 high-level executives (average annual salary: over $206,000), those with the title of chief financial officer or comptroller are the most likely to be satisfied, and those in IT are the least likely, at just 53%.

The reasons most often cited for being unhappy at work:

-- Limited advancement opportunities: 12.8%
-- Lack of challenge/personal growth: 12.3%
-- Compensation: 11.7%
-- Stress level: 7.7%
-- Job security: 7.7%

24% -- Percentage of U.S. workers who say they check their work e-mail or voice mail while on vacation. That's up from 16% in an earlier iteration of the same survey, in 2005.

Source: Harris Interactive online survey of 1,617 employed adults, March 2008

Page compiled by Jamie Eckle.

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