Travelers Named Code Platoon’s 2024 Partner of the Year

Chicago, IL, [June 25, 2024] – Code Platoon, a nonprofit coding bootcamp exclusively for Veterans and military spouses, has selected Travelers, a leading provider of property casualty insurance, as its 2024 Partner of the Year. This recognition is given to a corporate partner whose leadership significantly advances Code Platoon’s mission of empowering the military community to transition to civilian careers in software engineering.

Over the past year, Travelers has hired several Code Platoon graduates into its Engineering Development Program and provided philanthropic support to Code Platoon’s robust technical education and career placement programs. 

Thida Sam, Director of Development at Code Platoon, praised Travelers, saying, “Travelers has been instrumental in our efforts this year, particularly with their focus on recruiting from nontraditional talent pipelines and their unwavering support for Veteran-focused educational initiatives. This has set a benchmark for corporate partnership.”

“We have a longstanding commitment to supporting the military community, and it is an absolute honor to be recognized by Code Platoon for our efforts,” said Jim McMahon, Director of Talent Acquisition at Travelers. “We pride ourselves on ensuring a welcoming and supportive environment for military families, and part of that includes fostering strong partnerships with organizations such as Code Platoon.”

Travelers supports a number of military-friendly initiatives, including an employee resource group that boasts more than 3,300 members and a recruitment program designed specifically to help military spouses that has resulted in more than 300 hires since 2020. 

The company has also signed the Statement of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve at both state and national levels, and it participates in the Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership, which connects military spouses with partner employers committed to recruiting and retaining military spouses. In recent years, Travelers has also been named an Employer for Outstanding Support by the U.S. Navy Reserve and a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon company by the Minnesota National Guard.

“We are excited to recognize Travelers as our 2024 Partner of the Year,” said Rod Levy, Executive Director of Code Platoon. “Their commitment to our mission through active support, job placements, and volunteer efforts has been invaluable. They truly embody the spirit of partnership, and we are immensely grateful for their contributions.”

Travelers will be recognized at the annual Celebrate Code Platoon event on September 26, 2024.

About Code Platoon

Code Platoon is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that transforms Veterans, active duty Servicemembers, and military spouses into professional software engineers through an immersive, hands-on educational process and paid apprenticeship program. We recognize the unique and diversified skill sets and experience Veterans bring to the tech industry and provide the hard and soft skills for these individuals to transition to careers in tech.

Code Platoon Enhances Veteran and Military Spouse Education with AI Curriculum Integration

Code Platoon, a pioneering coding bootcamp exclusively for Veterans and military spouses, today announced a significant enhancement to its educational offerings: the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its curriculum. This initiative aligns with Code Platoon’s mission of providing technology education specifically tailored to the unique experiences and capabilities of Veterans and military spouses entering the tech workforce.

AI Integration: A Boost to Veteran and Spouse Skill Sets

Code Platoon believes that AI tools enhance, not replace, the essential skills of software engineers. Training in those essential skills remains the foundation of the Code Platoon program. The integration of AI will add training on prompt engineering and the judicious use of AI tools in a way that balances efficiency with a strong understanding of fundamentals.

Code Platoon’s current Full-stack Software Engineering cohort, Whiskey Platoon, is the first to experience the updated curriculum. Other cohorts and programs will follow, incorporating the AI curriculum at the start of each new cohort throughout 2024.

AI tools will be introduced at key points in the curriculum, with guardrails for novice programmers to prevent over-reliance. Leveraging our culture of rich student feedback, we’ll regularly assess and evolve our AI curriculum, staying aligned with industry changes.

The updated curriculum is designed not only to equip students with cutting-edge tech skills but also to complement and enhance the distinct qualities that Veterans and military spouses bring to the tech industry.

Statements from Leadership

Rod Levy, Executive Director and Founder of Code Platoon, emphasized the program’s unique focus: “We recognize the dynamic and transformative power of AI in the tech world. Integrating AI into our software engineering curriculum is a strategic step to ensure our students are uniquely positioned to meet the demands of the tech industry, leveraging their distinctive backgrounds and the advanced skills they acquire here at Code Platoon.”

Adam Cahan, Program Director at Code Platoon, highlighted the impact: “AI is not just a tool but an important aspect of modern software engineering that our students must master. AI will be woven throughout our curriculum, ensuring every student grasps its importance alongside core software engineering skills. This will enable our graduates to stand out in the tech field.”

Enhancing Our Nonprofit Mission

This AI integration is a significant milestone in Code Platoon’s commitment to:

  • Inclusive Education: Our immersive, hands-on approach is designed for individuals with diverse backgrounds, especially those with no prior tech experience.
  • Financial Accessibility: We continue to break down barriers with scholarships, ensuring our education is accessible to all Veterans and military spouses.
  • Career Support: Strong industry partnerships facilitate paid apprenticeships and job placement, easing the transition into tech careers.

The Bigger Picture: Impact on Veterans and Spouses

With AI becoming increasingly important in the tech industry, Code Platoon’s initiative ensures that Veterans and military spouses are not only well-prepared for tech careers but also equipped to thrive and lead in them. This approach also contributes significantly to diversifying the tech industry, showcasing the immense value and potential of those who have served our nation.

About Code Platoon

Code Platoon is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that transforms Veterans, active duty Servicemembers, and military spouses into professional software engineers through an immersive, hands-on educational process and paid apprenticeship program. We recognize the unique and diversified skill sets and experience Veterans bring to the tech industry and provide the hard and soft skills for these individuals to transition to careers in tech. 

Contact Information

Jim Hennessey

(312) 767-7673

jim@codeplatoon.org

codeplatoon.org

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Code Platoon Scholarships Bridge the Gap Left by VET TEC

With VET TEC funding nearing exhaustion, Code Platoon, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the military to tech transition, is ready to help those impacted through our scholarship program. Scholarships to attend our Full-stack Software Engineering and DevOps and Cloud Engineering programs can bridge the gap left by the exhausted funding of VET TEC.

Established as a five-year test program by the VA, VET TEC successfully equipped over 12,000 Veterans with tech skills highly sought after by employers. However, the program’s remaining funding, initially extended for 2024, is nearing depletion after just 100 days. This will leave many Veterans without the means to access vital tech training.

Code Platoon’s scholarships are funded by the generous support of individual donors, foundations, and corporate partners who share Code Platoon’s mission. These scholarships cover most or all of the cost of the program, ensuring that financial barriers do not hinder Veterans and active duty Servicemembers pursuing careers in Full-stack software development and DevOps and cloud engineering.

“The lack of  VET TEC program funding will create a void in the educational pathways available to our Veterans and active duty Servicemembers to pursue careers as software engineers,” said Rod Levy, Founder and Executive Director of Code Platoon. “It’s our mission to help every Veteran with aspirations in tech access quality education and training.” 

Scholarships are a major component of Code Platoon’s mission to make training for tech careers affordable and accessible. In 2023, we awarded more than $1,125,000 in scholarships to students attending our program.

Interested applicants are encouraged to visit Code Platoon’s website for more information on the scholarship programs and application process. Code Platoon’s commitment extends beyond education, as graduates also benefit from a robust network of industry connections and support in transitioning into the tech workforce.

Contact Information:

Jim Hennessey

(312) 767-7673

jim@codeplatoon.org.

codeplatoon.org

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Military Coding Bootcamp Supporters Raise $76,295 for Veteran and Military Spouse Scholarship Funds

Code Platoon celebrated seven years of success helping Veterans launch their tech careers with the Celebrate Code Platoon 2023 fundraising event. One hundred and twenty-five sponsors, supporters, and alums raised $76,295 for military coding scholarships during the celebration at Artifact Events on September 21, 2023.

Dollars raised Rod

The program began with a spotlight on the diversity of skills developed in the military. Code Platoon’s Veteran and Servicemember graduates have served as rescue divers, bridge builders, intelligence analysts, blood lab technicians, linguists, aircraft mechanics, and even musicians. Code Platoon alums not only have their technical knowledge from Coding Bootcamp. They also bring the diversity of their military experience to their future employers.

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Rodrigo Levy, Code Platoon’s Founder and Executive Director, shared the successes and challenges of 2023. Code Platoon has graduated almost 500 students from our military coding bootcamps in the last seven years. Seventy-four percent of these graduates landed tech jobs within six months, with a median starting salary of $85,000. After two years in tech, our graduates earn a median salary of $115,000.

But 2023 was also challenging. The VA’s VET TEC program funds were depleted in April, leaving many Veterans unable to pay for their needed training.

Code Platoon met this challenge thanks to the support of the corporate partners and donors who contributed to our Veteran scholarship funds. Code Platoon has awarded 1.3 million dollars in scholarships in the last two years. The average awarded scholarship was $16,500, covering 92% of a Veteran’s tuition. 

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Code Platoon recognized our 2023 Partner of the Year: 8th Light. 8th Light has demonstrated exceptional dedication to our mission through financial support, job placements, and volunteer contributions. Learn more about 8th Light’s partnership with Code Platoon in the Partner of the Year video.

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8th_Light

Celebrate Code Platoon 2023 was made possible by our event sponsors: Enova, Chicago Trading Company, DRW, Caesars Entertainment, JPMorgan Chase, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Raise, and 8th Light. These sponsors, our guests, and an anonymous donor who matched the evening’s donations raised over $76,295 to help more Veterans and military spouses start new tech careers.

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Two Veterans who launched software engineering careers with Code Platoon also spoke as part of the Celebrate program. 

Joshua moved from the Philippines to the United States when he was nine. He couldn’t afford to pursue a college degree; so he enlisted in the Army for more opportunities. Joshua was accepted to Code Platoon’s Tango cohort via the DoD SkillBridge program. He earned a spot in Accenture’s software engineering apprenticeship program after graduation.

Megan hoped to work in IT when she enlisted in the Navy, but she was assigned an electronics technician role instead. Megan joined Code Platoon’s Quebec cohort six years later to pursue her software development dreams. She graduated with a software engineering apprenticeship at DRW, where she is now a full-time software developer.

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Megan Ganualdi

Celebrate Code Platoon was a success, but we still need your help to train 500 more Veterans, Servicemembers, and military spouses in the next three years. You can make a tax-deductible contribution to the Celebrate Code Platoon scholarship fund by visiting our event donation page.

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VET TEC Program Update

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced on August 3, 2023, that the VET TEC program is funded for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 (October 1, 2023 – September 30, 2024) with a budget of $45,000,000. This means that Veterans and Servicemembers enrolled in a VET TEC program can complete their training and find meaningful employment through FY 2024.

However, the VA will no longer accept new applications after April 1, 2024. Those considering applying for Veteran tech training programs are encouraged to take advantage of this funding before it depletes.

Code Platoon is an approved VET TEC training provider. A full list of approved training providers can be found on the VET TEC Training Providers website. Veterans are encouraged to check this list routinely to ensure they have the most up-to-date information regarding approved training providers.

The VET TEC Authorization Act of 2023, nicknamed “Forever VET TEC,” has been introduced to allocate permanent funding for Veteran tech education, but no legislation has been passed at this time. The VA urges prospective students to stay informed by regularly checking the Veterans Technology Education Courses website for updates.

For more information on VET TEC benefits and Code Platoon’s military coding bootcamps, please reach out to info@codeplatoon.org.

8th Light Named Code Platoon’s Partner of the Year

[Chicago, June 26, 2023] – Code Platoon is proud to announce that 8th Light has been selected as its 2023 Partner of the Year for its outstanding support and commitment to furthering the Code Platoon mission.

Each year, Code Platoon recognizes a corporate partner who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to the organization’s mission. The Partner of the Year distinction is awarded based on a comprehensive evaluation of total engagement, including financial support, job placements, and volunteer contributions. 8th Light has gone above and beyond in these areas, significantly impacting Code Platoon’s ability to empower and uplift the military community.

“8th Light’s support has allowed Code Platoon to expand its reach and enhance its programming,” said Alicia Boddy, Director of Partnerships for Code Platoon. “They have played a crucial role in delivering high-quality training and resources to our students, equipping them with the skills needed for successful careers in the tech industry.”

8th Light has demonstrated a deep commitment to Code Platoon by actively engaging with the organization. They have placed eight Code Platoon graduates into positions within their company, providing valuable opportunities for these talented individuals to launch their tech careers. Numerous 8th Light employees regularly volunteer to support the Code Platoon program. These volunteers have generously shared their industry knowledge, mentored students, and supported the organization’s various programs, creating a nurturing environment for Code Platoon’s students.

“We are thrilled to honor 8th Light as Code Platoon’s 2023 Partner of the Year,” said Rod Levy, Executive Director of Code Platoon. “Their support, job placements, and volunteer engagement have been invaluable in our mission to empower Veterans and military spouses. 8th Light’s commitment embodies the spirit of partnership, and we are incredibly grateful for their contributions.”

“We’re proud to partner with Code Platoon on our shared mission of building great software by building amazing teams,” said Jenny Farver, CEO of 8th Light. “We’re inspired by Code Platoon’s commitment to continual learning and mentorship, and it’s a natural fit with 8th Light’s own tradition of apprenticeship.”

As the Partner of the Year, 8th Light will be recognized during Code Platoon’s annual Celebrate Code Platoon event on September 21, 2023. For more information about the event or to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.codeplatoon.org/celebrate/.

For more information about Code Platoon and its mission to empower Veterans, active duty Servicemembers, and military spouses, please visit www.codeplatoon.org.

About Code Platoon:

Code Platoon is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Veterans, active duty Servicemembers, and military spouses transition to careers in the tech industry through an immersive coding bootcamp, mentorship, and career placement support. Since its inception, Code Platoon has empowered over 400 individuals with the skills and opportunities to thrive in the ever-evolving technology field.

About 8th Light:

8th Light is a leading software consultancy specializing in software craftsmanship and innovative solutions. With a commitment to creating impactful software and fostering a culture of continuous learning, 8th Light provides expert consulting, custom software development, and training services to a wide range of clients across industries.

Code Platoon Steps Up to Help Veterans and Servicemembers Impacted by VET TEC Funding Exhaustion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Chicago, IL – The recent announcement by the Department of Veteran Affairs regarding the exhaustion of VET TEC program funds for the remainder of the 2023 fiscal year has left many Veterans and Servicemembers who were planning to attend coding bootcamps in a difficult position. However, Code Platoon, a mission-focused, nonprofit coding bootcamp created exclusively for Veterans and active duty Servicemembers, has stepped up to help those impacted by this situation.

With the VET TEC program no longer accepting new enrollments until the US Congress authorizes additional appropriations, Code Platoon is reopening applications for their next Full-stack Software Engineering cohort, Uniform Platoon.

The 15-week, full-time, Full-stack Software Engineering Uniform Platoon is scheduled for June 5 – September 15, 2023. Code Platoon will accept new applications from Veterans who have been accepted to other bootcamps but can’t attend due to the VET TEC funding issue. Applications for Uniform Platoon will be open through May 13, 2023. Accepted applicants will be eligible to apply for a Code Platoon scholarship. They may also be able to use the GI Bill if applying to attend in-person at our Chicago location.

“Our mission at Code Platoon is to help Veterans and Servicemembers transition to careers in tech,” said Rod Levy, Executive Director of Code Platoon. “Our scholarships and the GI Bill are ways to help those impacted by the VET TEC funding issue to continue their timely pursuit of a career in software engineering.”

Code Platoon is committed to advocating for the VET TEC Authorization Act of 2023, nicknamed “Forever VET TEC,” which would make VET TEC a permanent program with increased annual funding. Alicia Boddy, Code Platoon’s Director of Partnerships, recently testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, advocating for this act.

Code Platoon is proud to help Veterans and Servicemembers achieve their career goals in the tech industry. For more information on Code Platoon’s scholarship opportunities and Uniform Platoon cohort, visit their website at www.codeplatoon.org.

Contact:

Greg Drobny

Recruitment Manager

Code Platoon

info@codeplatoon.org

www.codeplatoon.org

Charity Navigator 100

Code Platoon Rated 100/100 “Give with Confidence” by Charity Navigator

CHICAGO, April 13, 2022 – Code Platoon is proud to announce that our strong financial health and ongoing accountability and transparency have earned a 100/100 rating from Charity Navigator’s Encompass Rating System. This score indicates that our organization uses its donations effectively based on Charity Navigator’s criteria and designates Code Platoon as an official “Give with Confidence” charity.

“We are delighted to provide Code Platoon with third-party accreditation that validates their operational excellence,” Michael Thatcher, President and CEO of Charity Navigator, said. “We are eager to see the good work that the organization is able to accomplish in the years ahead.” 

Charity Navigator is America’s largest and most-utilized independent charity evaluator. Since 2001, the organization has been an unbiased and trusted source of information for more than nine million users annually. 

The Encompass Rating System is Charity Navigator’s comprehensive evaluation tool that analyzes non-profit performance based on four key indicators: Finance & Accountability, Impact & Results, Culture & Community, and Leadership & Adaptability. 

“Our Charity Navigator Encompass rating of 100 out of 100 is further validation that our supporters can trust our commitment to good governance and financial accountability,” Rod Levy, Code Platoon’s Founder and Executive Director, said. “We hope that it will introduce our organization to new supporters, advancing our mission to help Veterans, Servicemembers, and military spouses transition into the civilian workforce by providing technical coding training and career services.”

Code Platoon’s Encompass rating and other information about charitable giving are available free of charge at charitynavigator.org. Donations to Code Platoon can be made by mail-in check or credit card at codeplatoon.org/n_donate.

About Code Platoon

Code Platoon is a 501(c)3 non-profit that helps Veterans, SkillBridge-approved Servicemembers, and military spouses transition into career-ready professional software engineers. For 15 weeks, the students are immersed in learning the full web development stack, including Python, Django, JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. After completing the program, the Veteran, Servicemember, or military spouse will be hireable as a junior full-stack web developer and eligible for an apprenticeship.

About the Encompass Rating System

The Encompass Rating System enables Charity Navigator to increase the number of non-profits it evaluates, from nine thousand to nearly two hundred thousand. In order to be inclusive of smaller and more recently established non-profits, the system uses a combination of automated methods and technology-supported manual research and analysis to provide donors with its four clearly-visualized indicators of organizational effectiveness. More information about the Encompass rating methodology can be found at charitynavigator.org/encompass.

Securing High-Demand Jobs for Veterans

On February 2, 2022, Code Platoon’s Chief Operating Officer Alicia Boddy testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity about VET TEC and VRRAP at a hearing titled “Securing High-demand Jobs for Veterans.”  This is the written testimony Alicia presented to the committee. A link to the YouTube video of the hearing is included below.

Good morning Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Moore, and Members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me here to discuss the VA’s funding programs for technology and other high-demand jobs.

Introduction

My name is Alicia Boddy, and I am the Chief Development and Operations Officer for Code Platoon. I also serve as our School Certifying Official. That is, I complete all of the electronic filings to the VA and am the point of contact for both the VA and students.

Code Platoon is a nonprofit coding Bootcamp with a mission to train the Military Community (Veterans, transitioning Active Duty, and Military Spouses) to become professional software developers. Coding bootcamps, or code schools, refer to a newer training model whereby students are taught in-demand software development skills, often in an intense and typically condensed time frame. Most coding bootcamps gear their programs towards high placement rates (70%+) in well-paying technical jobs.

Code Platoon was one of the first three providers approved to accept VET TEC in April of 2019. We are also approved to accept the GI Bill, VRRAP, and Veteran Readiness & Employment benefits. Code Platoon hosts in-person classes in Chicago, as well as remote learning. We have trained over 230 students since our first class in 2016, including 85 VET TEC students but only 8 VRRAP students. We have seen a huge lack of awareness about VRRAP in the Military Community.

I am here in support of making both VET TEC and VRRAP permanent programs by combining the best parts of both. I will share the experience Code Platoon has had with these programs and where there are opportunities for improvement. More importantly, I will share stories from Code Platoon graduates whose lives and careers have been changed by VET TEC and VRRAP.

VET TEC Working Group

In the summer of 2019, I formed the VET TEC Working Group (VTWG). What started out as a call among 3-5 providers is now a standing monthly call with the majority of the 32 currently approved VET TEC providers attending. We are frequently joined by the VA’s VET TEC processing team in Buffalo, who make it a priority to join these calls and provide updates. This relationship between providers and the VA has been vital to the overall success of VET TEC. By creating consistent and open lines of communication between providers and the team in Buffalo, we are often able to address problems quickly and help Veterans use the VET TEC program efficiently and effectively. A provider noted that these calls “are the best training we receive each month.”

Job Placement

Job placement is a key metric for VET TEC and VRRAP. The VA withholds 50% of the VET TEC tuition payment and 25% of the VRRAP tuition payment until the student finds meaningful employment, which is required within 180 days of graduation. Job placement and tracking have inherently been part of the design of code schools from their inception in 2011. These programs were designed to provide intense, immersive, short-term training that will lead directly to a job. Code schools routinely include job placement in their graduation outcome reports each year. In fact, code schools formed an association to establish standards on job placement reporting, the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR). Many VET TEC providers participate in CIRR, and graduate outcomes are posted on CIRR’s website. Code Platoon currently has a placement rate of 80%. During the pandemic, our graduating class from January 2021 had 100% job placement within 6 months of graduation. Today these students are working as software engineers with companies including JPMorgan Chase, Booze Allen Hamilton, and Cognizant. It is important to note that job placement rates have been the same or better for remote programs as in-person.

As one Code Platoon student shares, “VET TEC definitely was a great option for me because I could not do Code Platoon in-person and the GI Bill was not available for remote students. Their enrollment team helped guide me and I ended up getting approved for VET TEC and accepted into Code Platoon. Today, I am an associate engineer with Chicago Trading Company making $125,000 per year. I would not be here without VET TEC and Code Platoon.”

Code schools commitment to job placement is a perfect match for VET TEC and VRRAP. Traditional colleges and technical schools may not have the same background and experience with job placement metrics. Job placement is a key metric to ensure these programs work, but several providers brought up issues with the implementation of this requirement on the January VTWG call. I expect some of those providers to submit Statements to this Committee. I hope the Committee, the VA and providers can review the job placement requirement and implement improvements. This may explain the disparity between VET TEC and VRRAP providers.

VRRAP Approval

VRRAP approval is limited to programs that have VET TEC or GI Bill approval. To be approved for VET TEC, a school must not be accredited. However, most GI Bill approved schools are accredited universities, community, and technical colleges. Most VET TEC providers pursued approval for VRRAP, but the vast majority of approved VRRAP programs are at universities, community, and technical colleges. These schools appear to have gotten their entire portfolio of GI Bill approved programs approved for VRRAP.

For example, Somerset Community College has 885 programs, Ivy Tech Community College 734 and Strayer University 434. Even DeVry University, which had prior issues with its GI Bill approval, has over 170 VRRAP programs. There are also many 2-year associate programs approved (including one for Spanish). It is hard to understand how these programs will meet job placement metrics.

Community and technical colleges are undervalued and certainly play an important role in education and job training, but these schools generally do not have the same experience and commitment to job placement as code schools. That is not to say that these programs cannot be successful under VRRAP, but perhaps it could be more intentional to approve programs with a high demand for workers and greater likelihood of securing meaningful employment. The beauty of VRRAP is that it expanded benefits to Veterans who did not have GI Bill entitlement, and it expanded training beyond technology to other high-demand jobs. There may be room for improvement in the program’s implementation, but I absolutely support expanding the pool of eligible Veterans and including non-technology, high-demand jobs.

VET TEC Approval

While I’ve noted the issue with VRRAP program approval above and how that may impact job placement, I’d like to discuss the VET TEC approval process as that was a particular struggle for many providers in 2021.

VET TEC providers must submit yearly school and program approvals to the VA. These approvals are in addition to the GI Bill approval schools are required to complete with their State Approving Agency (SAA) each year, as well as any state requirements (for instance, Code Platoon is also regulated by the Illinois Board of Higher Education). While I would love to discuss the demands and conflicts of these competing approvals, I’ll focus on VET TEC.

VET TEC providers were required to submit 30+ pages of documentation to VET TEC’s Approval Compliance & Liaison team (AC&L) by August 31, 2021. VET TEC funding is available on October 1. That means AC&L only had 30 days to review these packets, as many schools had classes starting in October. This is an impossible deadline.

As of November 30, only 6 of the 32 providers had received feedback on their applications. That meant AC&L had to review and approve individual classes so schools could enroll students in October and November (this enrollment also triggers the housing payment to Veterans). This chaotic situation led to other issues (some submittals were lost, which resulted in the provider going to the end of the line as AC&L processes on a first-in, first-out basis). I will share a full write-up with staff that provides detailed examples.

During our January 2022, VTWG call held, the AC&L team announced that the approval process is undergoing considerable and meaningful updates. These changes will be implemented in direct response to feedback from providers during the FY 22 approval process. The updated approval process, effective March 2022, will alleviate much of the frustrations and delays previously experienced. This is a timely example of the power of collaboration between providers and the VET TEC AC&L and processing teams. I want to especially thank Bill Spruce, Darlene Graves, Sarahbeth Dean, and Peter Nastasi for their tireless efforts in working with the VTWG.

Budget and Veteran Eligibility

VET TEC was originally allotted $15 million per fiscal year for the 5-year pilot. In FY 2021, this October 1 funding ran out November 5. Congress increased funding to $45 million per fiscal year after this occurred. Even with the larger budget, the VET TEC program consistently exhausts our funding prior to the end of the fiscal year, leaving thousands of Veterans unable to participate in our training programs.

It is difficult for the VA to anticipate when the budget will be exhausted given the payment structure. This puts schools and Veterans in a difficult position. A school may have a class starting soon and then receive notice that funding is exhausted. Many code schools enroll students on a rolling basis, usually about 4-6 months before their class will actually start. This allows students to complete the necessary pre-work to be prepared for the pace of a coding Bootcamp.

As one Code Platoon student shared, “My journey into professional software development started a year before my class at Code Platoon. As I was transitioning from an Active Duty service member into a Navy Veteran, I came across the VET TEC program on the Veterans Affairs Education website. The goal is to match Veterans with a leading training provider to help develop those high-tech skills to quickly be placed in a high-paying tech job. I found Code Platoon and started the application process.”

Code Platoon is currently enrolling students for our May 24 class, but we have no idea if funding will be available. While in-person VET TEC students can revert to their GI Bill, that is not an option for remote students, which is the majority of our current students.

In contrast, VRRAP was allotted $386 million from March 2021 to December 2022. This budget has barely been spent. VET TEC students are not eligible for VRRAP, as VET TEC requires a Veteran to have GI Bill benefits, while that is a disqualifying factor for VRRAP. A Veteran cannot be approved for both programs, even if they are unable to use VET TEC because of  lack of Budget.

As a short-term solution, please consider moving $45 million dollars from the VRRAP budget to the VET TEC budget immediately. This will allow providers to continue training Veterans through FY 2022. Beginning in FY 2023, VET TEC should be funded at $125 million and receive the balance of VRRAP funding when that temporary program expires. VRRAP should be allowed to expire, as it was designed as part of Covid relief efforts. But, there is much we can learn and take from VRRAP to make a stronger and permanent VET TEC program.

If VRRAP and VET TEC are combined into one program, the requirement for a Veteran to have GI Bill benefits to qualify should be discontinued. The goal of this combined program should be to support Veterans who want to find meaningful employment in a condensed time frame, regardless of their GI Bill status. Approved programs should follow the VET TEC requirements of running 6 weeks to 28 weeks in length, ensuring that the VA is supporting short-term training programs designed to secure high-demand jobs. Non-college degree-granting programs (NCDs) should be given priority over accredited universities and community colleges, given the amount of existing financial aid programs available to accredited schools.

The Future of VET TEC & VRRAP

By combining the best parts of VET TEC and VRRAP, you have the opportunity to meet Veterans where they are in finding meaningful employment in high-demand jobs. Many of our students have used the majority of their GI Bill but do not have a career. Programs like VET TEC and VRRAP are an important signal from the VA that you want to help. This is particularly important as we rebuild our economy post-coronavirus.

VET TEC and VRRAP are innovative tools to change the narrative on VA educational benefits. We can use these programs to focus on building the modern economy by filling high-demand tech jobs through coding bootcamps and other short-term or accelerated learning programs. This model of learning is the military model and approach that we know can work.

The payment structure to providers should remain as written for VRRAP if these programs are combined. Training providers expend an incredible amount of resources recruiting and training students into our programs. By receiving 75% of tuition by graduation, providers would have more stability. Code schools, in particular, would continue to benefit with this streamlined payment structure, as we will always strive to place graduates in meaningful employment upon Graduation.

If VET TEC and VRRAP are to be combined, it would be critical to only approve programs that have a positive impact and supporting data on finding Veterans meaningful employment through their training programs. Both in-person and remote programs should be approved as the data shows both types of training can lead to employment. The job placement metric and reporting should absolutely remain in place. Ideally, this data would be reported on the VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool or another VA website.

Code Platoon has been training remote students since 2018, with one recent graduate sharing, “I attended Code Platoon remotely from February to May 2021. Though my entire experience was remote, it did not detract from the immersive experience and overall quality education. In just a few short months, myself and others, all of whom were at different levels of experience, were able to go from writing simple “Hello World” scripts, to full-stack applications incorporating multiple 3rd party APIs. Overall, I can’t recommend this program enough to any Veteran!”

These suggested updates would ensure that VET TEC remains successful, providers who are committed to the mission of VET TEC are rewarded with timely approvals and most importantly, Veterans are able to participate in a program that is fully funded for the entire fiscal year.

Conclusion

Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience with VET TEC and VRRAP. I have seen firsthand the impact these programs are having on our Veterans. One Code Platoon graduate recently shared, “If you teach a Veteran to code they can support themselves and their families for a lifetime. Code Platoon, through their training program, is re-mobilizing Veterans with a sense of purpose and you can’t put a price tag on that.”

VET TEC and VRRAP are important tools to help Veterans secure high-demand jobs in tech. Allowing remote training coupled with the job placement metric is key to ensuring these programs are effective, sustainable, and the funds are wisely spent. I look forward to working with you and the VA to improve these programs and enable the Military Community to transition to high-demand jobs. This concludes my testimony, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Alicia Boddy is Code Platoon’s Chief Operations and Development Officer. Alicia oversees Code Platoon’s day-to-day activities including fundraising, grant writing, board development, and strategic planning. Alicia also serves as our VA certifying official, helping students navigate their benefits with the Department of Veteran Affairs. 

IDVA VET CASH

CODE PLATOON RECEIVES IDVA VET CASH GRANT

Code Platoon has received $100,000 from the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) Vet Cash Program to support the program’s mission of training Veterans and military spouses for careers in software engineering and development. Since 2017, IDVA has contributed a total of $250,000 to help Code Platoon offer an immersive, hands-on, 15-week Coding Bootcamp program and provide graduates the opportunity to secure paid apprenticeships following the completion of our program.

“The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is pleased to assist Code Platoon in its mission,”  said Linda Chapa LaVia, Director, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “By providing opportunities for training and mentorship, Code Platoon offers Veterans the chance to enter into an in-demand and well-paid career in software engineering. The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs salutes the work Code Platoon does to lift up Illinois veterans.” 

Proceeds from the Vet Cash program support Illinois Veterans by funding services that focus on military-affiliated community challenges, including healthcare costs, post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, research, job training and placement, and homelessness. IDVA provides funds to nonprofits, government agencies, and Veteran organizations to help smaller groups make a much more significant impact on the Illinois Veteran community.  

“The support from IDVA’s Vets Cash program cannot be understated,” said Rod Levy, Founder, and Executive Director, Code Platoon.

“Investing in our Veterans and military spouses has a proven return rate. Over the last two years, 80% of our students have found jobs in software development within six months of graduation. The median starting salary of those graduates was $72,000. After 24 months, the median salary of our graduates is $96,000,” Levy said. 

“Thanks to IDVA’s Vet Cash program, we can continue to empower our Veterans and military spouses across the state to achieve higher economic and career outlooks together,” Levy said.

Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) mission is to empower Veterans and their families to thrive by assisting them in navigating the system of federal, state, and local resources and benefits. IDVA also provides long-term health care for eligible Veterans within Veterans’ Homes; and partner with other agencies and non-profits to help Veterans address education, mental health, housing, employment, and other challenges.

Code Platoon is a 501(c)3 non-profit that helps Veterans and military spouses transition into the civilian workforce by providing technical training and career placement. Code Platoon teaches Veterans, military spouses, and active marketable skills that leverage core competencies, transforming them into software engineers through an immersive, hands-on, educational process and paid apprenticeship program.