The Military Spouse Technology Academy (MSTA) is an education program developed by Microsoft to give military spouses more employment opportunities in the field of technology, and to provide spouses with flexible, portable jobs that can be adapted to military life.
The program helps meet a critical need for employment for military spouses. Over half of all military spouses hold an associate’s degree or higher, but this population still faces unemployment rates that are significantly higher than the national average. Additionally, approximately one quarter of military spouses are underemployed, meaning that they earn less than their non-military spouse peers who have similar education or experience. These spouses may also be in jobs that do not necessarily align with their level of education, or career goals. Military spouses often face multiple barriers to establishing and maintaining a career:
- Unpredictable schedules due to their spouse’s job
- Possible difficulties obtaining child care
- Frequent moves to locations that may be remote, or have limited job opportunities
For these reasons, Microsoft developed the MSTA to address these barriers to employment, and give spouses the opportunity to learn skills and gain experience that they can turn into a meaningful career that they can continue, wherever the military takes them.
What will spouses learn through the Academy?
The MSTA is a 22-week training program developed to provide military spouses with in-demand digital and technology skills, to help prepare them for careers in the growing field of technology. The program was developed by Microsoft to show the company’s support for and commitment to the military community.
Through the program, spouses can learn programming skills, how to build applications, and how to integrate and manipulate data. The program was specifically designed with the unique needs of military spouses in mind, with the goal of improving the overall quality of life of military spouses and families.
What are the costs of the program and where is it held?
Spouses who are accepted into the academy can attend at no cost. The program currently has two locations, each offering the Cloud Application Development career path:
- San Antonio, Texas
- Tacoma, Washington
The first MSTA program was held in 2019 in Washington state, near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The first group of MSTA participants included 19 members from eight countries. Additionally, members of this group collectively:
- Held 35 degrees
- Held 40 certifications
- Spoke twenty languages
As they neared completion of the program, each of the participants had the opportunity to interview with Microsoft or one of MSTA’s other hiring partners. Microsoft is working with Hiring Our Heroes to connect military spouses with employment partners that will allow them to work in the following fields:
These fields are especially important for military spouses, due to the fact that there are over 500,000 job openings annually in the technology field. MSTA helps spouses take advantage of these opportunities by providing them with the education they need to obtain jobs in technology.
How can spouses apply?
In order to participate in the program, spouses must go through an application process. To begin the process, spouses must:
- Confirm that they are eligible to work in the United States
- Provide documentation indicating their household military status
Additionally, spouses must submit the following:
- Up-to-date resume
- Cover letter
- Proof that they have passed the MTA Exam 98-361: Software Development Fundamentals
Other opportunities with Microsoft for military families
In addition to helping spouses obtain employment, Microsoft also assists other members of the military community:
- The Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) provides training on technology for veterans and transitioning service members
- The YouthSpark program provides STEM education for children in military families
In 2013, Microsoft launched the MSSA, an 18-week program designed to provide education for veterans and transitioning members on the following topics:
- Cloud development
- Cloud administration
- Cybersecurity administration
- Database and business intelligence administration
The MSSA has proven to be successful, and has helped many transitioning service members and veterans to get jobs in the technology field after their military careers. Currently, there are over 500 companies that have hired MSSA graduates, and there have been over 1,000 graduates since the start of the program. MSSA graduates also have high retention rates once they obtain a job; since the program began, over 90 percent of MSSA graduates remained employed at the jobs they accepted after the program ended for at least two years.
Most veterans and those transitioning out of the military stay at their first post-military job for less than two years. As of 2018, Microsoft had opened 14 MSSA locations across the United States, with the capacity to graduate 1,000 students from the program each year.
For military kids, Microsoft offers YouthSpark, a digital skills education program for elementary and middle school students. In 2018, the program held two-day camps at the following military installations:
- Camp Pendleton
- Schofield Barracks
- Fort Bragg
- Joint Base San Antonio
The program’s goal is to spark kids’ interest in STEM careers by introducing them to STEM-related subjects, like IT and computing. The program began in 2012 and is working to develop digital skills for children across the United States by improving access to computer science education for kids who may not otherwise be able to access it.
Microsoft’s goal for the MSTA is to provide spouses with similar opportunities in technology and other STEM fields. Military spouses have a wide variety of skills to offer, such as adaptability, resilience, and the ability to multitask. Microsoft aims to acknowledge all that the military spouse community has to offer, and to ensure that these members of the military community have the opportunity to utilize their many skills in careers that can be done anywhere.
Heather Maxey works at a non-profit that addresses military ineligibility. She is an Army spouse, and met her husband while working as a Health Educator at Fort Bragg.