Oftentimes when the leading technology companies recruit new employees, they take a predictable route. Recruiters approach graduates of the top science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at the most prestigious universities and colleges in the country. I want to shine a light on a group of candidates with real-world experience and exceptional talent that has been ignored for too long: the United States military.

America has the most technologically advanced armed forces the world has ever seen. Our nation’s service academies equip our cadets in STEM fields to succeed in the most demanding, high-pressured environment imaginable.

Clinical Laboratory Scientists provide life-saving research of body fluids that can help prevent disease. Cryptologic Linguists identify and transmit critical foreign communication. Combat Officers provide expertise in areas of mobility and counter-mobility on the battlefield. Military Intelligence Officers collect and relay essential intel for soldiers on the front lines.

If our brave men and women of the military can complete their mission in these intense environments, any company will benefit from the set of skills and experiences they have to offer.

More than 1.5 million members of the Armed Forces will leave the military in the next five years. Thousands of our nation’s finest will be joining their family and friends once again in the Good Life. In that same time period, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 9 million STEM jobs will be available. This is exciting news for our veterans and our economy.

Unfortunately, finding jobs that utilize their incredible skills is often a difficult task for our veterans. By a significant margin, veterans cite finding employment as their primary need when returning home.

This is unacceptable, and I have been working across the aisle to find solutions to this troubling issue.

That’s why I am a cosponsor of the Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act. Introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), this bipartisan bill recently passed the Senate Commerce Committee.

The bill would tear down barriers that are holding back our nation’s well-qualified veterans from participating in the STEM workforce. The Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act would direct the federal government to boost its outreach efforts to veterans to provide education on existing career and research opportunities in STEM and computer science fields.

Specifically, this legislation would direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand its efforts in these areas. Within this directive, the bill would require NSF to create and submit a plan to Congress that outlines its current outreach efforts for veterans and identify programs that NSF currently has in place to support veterans in the STEM field.

The Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act would also evaluate the ability of universities and colleges to recruit veterans for the NSF’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program and the NSF Masters Teacher Fellowship.

Since 2010, many Nebraska students at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Doane University have received awards under these programs. The programs provide stipends and scholarships for STEM majors and support to K-12 STEM teachers with a master’s or bachelor’s degree in their field.

Military spouses, who carry their own badge of service and sacrifice, will benefit from this legislation, too. The legislation directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy to create an interagency working group to coordinate federal programs and policies for transitioning veterans and military spouses for STEM careers.

Our 21st century economy will need to harness the exceptional skills of our veterans more than ever before. The Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act will make this issue a national priority, and I’ll be working hard in the Senate to ensure this bill crosses the finish line.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

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Deb Fischer is the senior senator from Nebraska. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. She can be reached in Washington D.C. at 454 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, 20510 (202-224-6551); in Lincoln at 440 North 8th Street, Suite 120, Lincoln, NE, 68508 (402-441-4600); in Omaha at 11819 Miracle Hills Dr. Suite 205, Omaha, NE 68154 (402-391-3411).


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