New federal program could help veterans join the tech industry

veterans

By Casey Tolan

Plunging his hand into an opened computer chassis, Vichon Ward sorted through a mess of colorful cables, fans and motherboards. The 28-year-old served eight years as a mechanic in the Air Force, repairing massive jet engines at military bases around the world — but before starting a tech training course here last month, he had never seen the inside of a computer.

“I’ve fixed planes my whole life,” said Ward, pulling out a hard drive. “This is brand new.”

Like Ward, many military veterans coming home to the Bay Area are looking to get into the booming tech industry. That means more demand for programs that teach students everything from repairing laptops to setting up a network.

But most short-term tech training programs, like the introductory 14-week course Ward is taking, aren’t eligible for funding from the G.I. Bill, the landmark federal legislation that guarantees free education for most veterans. That money typically goes to accredited colleges, and it’s difficult for nontraditional education programs to get certified.

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