Amidst COVID-19 Crisis Free Military Program Offers All Career Training Online to Keep Veterans and Family Building Employment Opportunities in Uncertain Times

Onward to Opportunity, a free career training and professional certification program allows transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses, to maintain progress towards post-service, in-demand careers during COVID-19 shutdown

Syracuse, New York, UNITED STATES

NEW YORK, April 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Onward to Opportunity (O2O), a program offered through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) providing comprehensive career preparedness-training for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses as well as National Guard and Reserves, has gone completely online in recent weeks in accordance with the country-wide stay-at-home orders.

In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, this change allows its participants to maintain momentum towards their post-service civilian career. Normally available on 19 military installations in addition to an online option for distance learners, O2O trains participants on both technical and soft skills, serving as the gateway to employment with over 40 different career training programs and certifications. The program enrolled over 12,000 people online and via military bases after being established in 2019, following its initial creation in 2015 in partnership with the Schultz Family Foundation to a then-16% unemployment rate among veterans. 

“Program participants now can earn free certifications for in-demand career fields including information technology, project management and human resource management in classes that run on a quarterly basis at the installations and monthly online. The program also connects participants to career services provided by its operational partner, Hire Heroes USA,” says Mike Bianchi, Senior Director of Education and Career Training at IVMF.

The program has been modified and consolidated for a virtual learning setting. While a typical training module would be held over three to four eight-hours days, the online model has condensed the work to about four hours a day. The classes consist of 45 minutes of instruction followed by a 15-minute break.

“We've also relaxed course requirements for the time being,” says Michael Schoeneck, National Program Director, Onward to Opportunity. “There are a lot of people at home now with kids. We’re sensitive to that, but we also maintain a high level of delivery.”

Current participants have been given a 90-day extension to complete all program requirements. Other modifications to the course include virtual meetings with industry experts or speakers. “This program has always utilized technology as a major point of communication, so we were able to repurpose that,” says Schoeneck. 

Bianchi says it’s important for O2O to remain operational, especially with so many questions about the type of economy transitioning service members and their families will enter. O2O’s transition to online delivery enables participants to connect with Hire Heroes USA, which has a portfolio of over 850 national employers who are actively hiring. O2O has strong job placement results with 72% of graduates getting placed following the program.

“We wouldn't have been able to shift to distance learning across the country so quickly without the support of the resources provided by Syracuse University,” says Bianchi. “Having the platforms and technology in place and supported by teams both here and out in the field is one of the largest factors in our ability to do this so quickly.”

To further support transitioning service members and their families, Syracuse University and IVMF will provide free skills training to a select group of IVMF alumni. The new opportunity comes on the heels of program expansions in 2019 which included tools and curriculum created in partnership with Google to help military spouses find remote work, a common issue for spouses in light of regular duty-required moves and deployments; as well as additional curriculum tracks through Dell Boomi, a subsidiary of Dell.

“Distance learning services are needed now more than ever, because transition is always a time of uncertainty, and COVID-19 has introduced a higher level of uncertainty,” says Schoeneck. “We want to make sure that we are supporting transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses.”
For more information on O2O, visit: Getting Started – Onward to Opportunity.

Media Contact:

Stephanie Salanger
Director of Communications
Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)
315.443.5690 |

About the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University

The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education, and policy issues impacting veterans and their families. Through its professional staff and experts, the IVMF delivers leading programs in career, vocational, and entrepreneurship education and training, while also conducting actionable research, policy analysis, and program evaluations. The IVMF also supports communities through collective impact efforts that enhance delivery and access to services and care. The Institute, supported by a distinguished advisory board, along with public and private partners, is committed to advancing the lives of those who have served in America’s armed forces and their families. For more information, visit and follow the IVMF on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.