After four years in the U.S. military, including two deployments, Christopher Bess faced a new obstacle he was not prepared for: transitioning into the civilian workforce.
Bess had been living a very structured life, as he describes it, while in the military. He was also surrounded by leaders he could rely on for answers to his questions, he recalled.
"When you transition out of the military, you feel alone," Bess told FOX Business. "I don't want to say you are alone. You just feel alone. So it was very hard for me."
That changed when he connected with Hiring Our Heroes' Career Forward program. It was launched in 2021 after gaining a $10 million grant from Google's philanthropy arm.
The program helps foster economic opportunities for service members, military spouses and veterans by offering online training for in-demand jobs.
Military community members like Bess can get a Google Career Certificate in data analytics, IT support, project management, user experience (UX) design, digital marketing, e-commerce or cybersecurity. It takes about six months to complete.
They also have access to professional development and job search support, such as interview prep, career workshops and the opportunity to connect with ready-to-hire employers when they complete their certificate.
For Bess, it helped him realize what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Within six months of getting a Google Career Certificate in data science, he connected with Verizon Wireless, where he currently works as a data science manager.
"They gave me the support. They gave me the credentials. They got me a network with other veterans," he said. "That way, I could be seen and recognized for my work ethic and my ability to just learn."
When Bess got the call that he was hired, he started crying, he said. Bess defied the odds of what was expected of him, someone who grew up in a small town with parents who barely finished high school.
"The expectation was to work in a warehouse," he said. Now, he works for a Fortune 500 company.
The key to a program like this is that it is free, flexible and a self-paced upskilling program, Lisa Gevelber, Google Career Certificates program founder, told FOX Business.
This means that "military community members are able to complete the training regardless of where they are in their career journey or where they are located in the world," she said.
The program not only helps participants figure out what career they want to jump into, but it also helps them pivot into new fields through "the additional wraparound support it provides – such as resume reviews and job placement assistance," she added.
To date, more than 1,500 military community members in the program have gained a new job, promotion, raise, or have used the program to build or launch a new business.