VMware: The Latest Organization to Boost Its Talent via the Air Force’s EWI Program

November 25, 2015

Since the 1950s, the Air Force’s Education Within Industry (EWI) program has paired active duty airmen looking to advance their military career with companies that want to leverage their experience. And, in August, VMware, became the latest company to reap the benefits.

In the EWI program, active duty Air Force airmen spend 10 months working in the private sector, with the hopes they’ll pick up skills that will make them better leaders in the service. Meanwhile VMware, a company that provides cloud and virtualization services and does a lot of work for the federal government, was eager to be part of the program.

“We are working with the future senior leaders of the Air Force,” VMware Practice Manager and Air Force veteran himself, Porter Clapp, said. “It is a great opportunity for us to bring in some of the top tier talent of one of our customers, the Air Force, to develop a really tight relationship and get them to share their perspective on VMware.”

A look at VMware’s EWI program

For the Air Force, the EWI program is a way for their airmen to learn skills from the private sector. Most of the time, airmen who have six to 10 years of experience go into the EWI program, and use it as a stepping-stone to the most senior ranks of the Air Force.

For that reason, the Air Force is highly selective about what companies they partner with as part of the EWI program. VMware was fortunate, as it was accepted the first year the company applied for the EWI program in 2015.

Since September, two active duty airmen have been working for VMware (while still being paid by the military) and will stay with the company until the end of June. One of the airman is working as a VMware program manager to provide cloud computing services to the government; the other is working to strengthen VMware’s cyber security offerings.

“VMware hopes to continue supporting the EWI program” Clapp said. “The company wants to add similar programs with the Navy, Army and the Department of Defense. “

Why VMware is part of the EWI program

So why did VMware want to be part of the EWI program? First of all, it allows them to get a unique perspective from one of their clients – the Air Force – which should help them improve their company.

“It allows us to have a really close relationship with one of our customers,” said Sarah Clark, a program manager who works in staffing operations at VMware. “That gives us insight into the thought process of what they want and that helps to understand how to make our business better.”

Although they can’t hire the airmen who go through the EWI program – as part of the EWI program, airmen agree to spend another three years after their private sector run in the Air Force – VMware hopes the people who do go through it act as recruiting “ambassadors” to their friends in the service.

“Once they are back on active duty, they’ll have a good understanding of the culture of VMware and its values,” said Lynette Estrada, a Senior Manager of Global Talent Acquisition at VMware. “And then the goal that they’ll serve as ambassadors for our company.”

Additionally, Estrada said this program helps VMware build strong relationships with the leaders of the Air Force’s veterans transition program, which help veterans find jobs after they leave the service. If VMware can provide the airmen with a great experience through the EWI program, the hope is that the transition leadership takes notice and recommends veterans to join VMware,” Estrada said.

So why such emphasis on hiring veterans in the first place?

“From the veterans I’ve worked with at VMware, I’ve noticed they are very well organized, extremely prepared, and share the values we have as a company,” Clark said. “They add tremendous value to our workforce and we want to leverage their expertise.”

The benefits for a company starting an EWI program

There are a lot of benefits for a company partnering with the Air Force and starting an EWI program (or another military branch, all have some version of the program). Most obviously, your company reaps the benefit of having top talent – an Air Force officer – join your ranks for 10 months, with all expenses being paid by the government.

But beyond that, it is also a great way to add prestige to your company, as the Air Force is highly selective in what companies they partner with. And it helps you recruit veterans, as it brings you closer to the military, and often the airmen who go through your EWI program act as brand ambassadors to veterans for your company once they leave.

Bottom line, it’s an interesting program that can benefit any company, particularly one that does a lot of work with the federal government or is interested in hiring more veterans. And VMware is just the latest organization to see that.

*Image from The United States Air Force

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