Toward the end of his military career, Stanley Osinski was stationed in Fort Irwin, California, where he worked behind a desk as a duty officer, reporting to the commanding officer. Like many military personnel, Osinski became familiar with how to use SAP systems as he completed maintenance tasks.

As he considered his impending retirement from the military and transition to a civilian role, Osinski learned from one of his fellow service members about SAP Veterans to Work, a program dedicated to providing U.S. military veterans with workforce fundamentals, training, scholarships, and free certification on leading SAP products.

Interested in the opportunity and the doors he believed it could open, Osinski applied along with his colleague, transferring to Fort Bliss, Texas, and jumping in headfirst. Through the program, he received his SAP Certified Associated Business Process Integration with SAP S/4HANA 2020 certification. Upon graduation, Osinski leveraged his military experiences and the expertise he gained from SAP Veterans to Work to begin a new career as a Borderland Maintenance Manager at Veolia North America.

For nearly a decade, SAP Veterans to Work has helped veterans like Osinski to transition their military and SAP experiences into civilian IT careers. A collaboration between St. Michael’s Learning Academy (SMLA) and SAP, the program provides its students with 320 hours of curriculum and hands-on learning, or the equivalent of about an 18-month education. 

According to Christine Aboud, owner and president of SMLA, SAP Veterans to Work gives both institutions a way to support military personnel and meaningfully thank them for their service. 

“SAP and SMLA both recognize the enormous contributions that America’s finest have made to our nation,” Aboud said. “Our goal is to help veterans make their way back into civilian life with a gainful career.

'Our Way of Giving Back'

A private post-secondary and vocational school, SMLA is dedicated to helping students retool their experiences for new careers and re-entry into the workforce. Drawing from the SAP University Alliance curriculum, certifications donated by SAP, and expert training professionals, SAP Veterans to Work equips its students with the tools, experience, and expertise critical for IT professionals.”

SAP Veterans to Work traces its origins to 2014 when the Department of Defense sought public-private partnerships with companies aimed at transitioning active-duty service members into civilian careers. The subsequently formed SkillBridge program connected military personnel with professional career opportunities. SMLA was a test pilot for SkillBridge and, in the decade since it was founded, has prepared approximately 900 veterans for careers in the SAP ecosystem.

Both the military and the Department of Defense use SAP products in various capacities, including procurement and asset maintenance; as a result, many students have pre-existing SAP experience.

"SAP salutes the courage and dedication of America's military personnel," said Michael May, Managing Director for the South Market Unit and Executive Sponsor for the SAP Veterans to Work Program. "Our Veterans to Work program is our way of giving back, aiding our heroes in seamlessly transitioning to civilian roles."

A New Kind of Training

SAP Veterans to Work meets its students where they are. A hybrid learning opportunity, the program takes place across 12 weeks and typically attracts active service members. Each class, comprised of 18 to 25 students, must complete a rigorous qualification and screening process before gaining admission. Aboud estimates that her team typically interviews between 50 to 80 veterans for each class, ensuring that students admitted have enough previous SAP experience to succeed in the program.

From there, students begin the SAP Veterans to Work course, which is separated into three pillars of learning. First, students receive a grounding in SAP and IT theory. In the morning, they are taught by instructors—often SMLA alums—who work in academia or with SAP University Alliances.

In the afternoon, students get trained on SAP case studies and gain hands-on experience with systems such as SAP S/4HANA. Afternoon sessions then focus on demonstrating how best to leverage SAP solutions in specific business contexts.

The third pillar of SAP Veterans to Work involves helping students build their resumes and prepare for job interviews. Aboud noted that, while the program’s students mostly have extensive IT backgrounds, they sometimes need assistance applying IT skills to the business world. Every Friday, students can receive free professional assistance while applying for jobs, participate in mock interviews, hear from VIP guests, learn to leverage career tools, and gain insights on emerging technologies (such as artificial intelligence).

“We’re not just providing key training for critical roles in SAP,” Aboud said. “We also translate the skills and training veterans received in the military, to ensure they understand how to defend that experience in interviews. We are building off their qualifications to help them successfully move into jobs within corporate America.”

Proven Results

SMLA has an exemplary record, including a 92% certification pass rate and an 85% student placement rate. Part of this success, Aboud believes, is owed to the sense of community and camaraderie the program instills in students.

Phillip Rhodes has worked with SAP ERP platforms since 2016. After a seven-year military career that saw him stationed in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and all over Europe, Rhodes decided to leverage his SAP experience and apply for the SAP Veterans to Work program. Graduating last year after getting SAP-certified in business process integration with SAP S/4HANA, Rhodes remained at SMLA as an SAP S/4HANA Instructor.

“It’s one of the most rigorous educational programs I have ever heard of, known, and experienced,” he recently told ASUG. “And that’s saying something.”

Rhodes noted that while many in the military use SAP products and ERP platforms regularly, transitioning from military roles into professional IT positions isn’t always easy. “The words, the verbiage, and the amount of information coming at you can be challenging,” he said.

The SAP Veterans to Work program, while intensive, helped Rhodes pair his experience with the knowledge and expertise necessary to begin a new career as an IT professional.

Employer Benefits

Of course, SAP Veterans to Work does not solely benefit its graduates. Military veterans possess a particular set of skills that’s often extremely desirable to companies looking for additions to their IT organizations. “Veterans adapt very well to change,” Aboud said. “Most of them have experience in an ever-changing environment and they excel at undergoing constant development and training.”

Applicants to SAP Veterans to Work complete a rigorous screening process before being admitted, which ensures organizations that recruit its graduates receive a high return on their investment. SMLA’s partnerships with both SAP and the SAP University Alliances mean that its students have access to up-to-date curriculum and active, experienced instructors. One of the most successful SAP training programs, SMLA has guided 88% of its students to successfully obtain their SAP ERP Certified Associate TS410 HANA exam – compared to the 65% national average.

“This is such a unique program,” Aboud said. “Starting an IT career is difficult for anybody. With SAP Veterans to Work, we supplement our students’ skills and experiences so they can successfully transition into a career in the SAP ecosystem. It’s a great way to help veterans jump-start a new chapter—and bring value to an organization.”

Jim Lichtenwalter and Erin Crain contributed to this article. 

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