SgtMaj (Retired) Frank Pulley, a good friend of mine who is actively involved with military transition while representing the Marine Corps Association and Foundation recently introduced me to a remarkably innovative organization that offers a variety of opportunities for veterans and active duty folks to pursue higher education. Promising education in and of itself is not particularly innovative – there are plenty of companies and schools in that business – but what makes this venture noteworthy is how it provides a comprehensive path from prospective student to employed graduate by working closely with colleges, universities, governmental agencies, and prospective employers.
The name of this great organization is Fidelis. Named the Fast Company magazine’s #7 Most Innovative Company in early 2012, it was created by former Marine Captain and Iraq combat veteran Gunnar Counselman. The company’s mission is to build a scalable solution to the military-to-civilian career transition in partnership with leading universities, military organizations, and great companies.
The idea for the company arose from Gunnar’s experience as he transitioned from active duty to the private sector. As a veteran fresh from the fight in Iraq he entered the Harvard Business School, and upon graduation started a very successful career in the civilian world with a top-tier consulting firm. During his graduate studies and his entry into corporate life he was startled by the differences between active service in the Marine Corps and life in the civilian environment and how difficult it was to make the transition between the two. He mulled it over for several years, and with the conviction of someone willing to take the plunge he started Fidelis in order to not just help military folks make it through the transition by pursuing higher education but also to partner with corporations and business to employ them upon graduation.
Fidelis is much more than just a college and job placement firm. It goes much deeper than that; each student works with a transitional coach and a network of mentors who help determine long term objectives, interests, and goals. Once these are established, the coach and mentors guide the student through a tailored educational process that links their objectives with a personalized educational program that meets their educational needs. With Fidelis’s help, the student enters college and obtains their degree – but the company’s commitment to the student does not end there. The new graduate works with his or her coach, mentors, and the corporate sector to find the best employment fit. The commitment does not end on the first day at work, either. Fidelis is there for months afterwards to ensure that the transition process is successful.
The company has a broad array of colleges, universities, corporations, and business who all work through Fidelis to create the bridge from uniformed member of the armed forces to successful business professional. They offer several programs that transitioning military people can pursue:
-2+2Plus: This program is for active duty personnel who know that they will be transitioning in the next year or two and don’t have a degree. They can take general education classes using the company’s innovative social learning platform that marries courses from the University of California with Fidelis’s learning program. Designed to get the student back up to speed educationally and prepare them for enrollment in a full-time college or university while still on active duty, the technology used is flexible, intuitive, and supportive of the demanding requirements that are part and parcel of being in the military. Once they leave active duty, the program continues as mentors and coaches guide the veteran to a college or university where they enroll in a program that meets their objectives and ultimately ends with placement in the private sector.
-Pre-MBA Bootcamp: This program is for veterans who already have a college degree and are pursuing an MBA in one of the top 30 programs nationwide. In conjunction with UCLA the program prepares the student with courses in finance, accounting, and quantitative analysis as well as providing an opportunity to socialize and network with other students.
-Silicon Valley Concentration: Designed for veterans who already have a four year degree and are interested in the technology sector, this program is focused on a specific degree or discipline. The program begins with a six week long course that introduces the technologies and companies that are the hub of Silicon Valley technology. The mentors and counselors then work with the student to determine which aspects of the tech world that they want to pursue, and collectively they create a pathway to get there through focused training that results in technical certifications that bring the student to the cutting edge of ever-changing technology. As with the other programs the mentorship and coaching does not end with a diploma, but instead follows the new employee as they pursue their new career.
All of this is done with little or no cost to the student other than the costs associated with enrolling in school. The costs are borne by the companies that are investing in quality future employees and by colleges and universities who help educate veteran students. Fidelis provides a remarkable opportunity for transitioning military people who want to pursue higher education and find a new career. Take a look at what they offer- I am certain you will be as intrigued as I was!