The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy opened its doors at Fort Bragg in mid-October.

Located in the Soldier Development Center (Building 2-1728, Room 320), the MSSA is an 18-week program that helps service members obtain job skills required for entry-level roles in server and cloud administration, database administration and business intelligence, and cloud application development, said Chris Cortez, vice president of Military Affairs, Microsoft.

So, how are classes facilitated?

“Microsoft employees serve as mentors by connecting to the class through Skype, or in-person when possible,” said Cortez.

The employees offer interactive lessons and conduct mock interviews, which provide participants with relevant training needed to secure high-paying, in-demand information technology jobs.

The MSSA program is open to current service members with a scheduled, end-of-active service date and to honorably-discharged service members. Any U.S. active-duty service member within six months of transitioning from the military, as well as members of the National Guard and Reserve who are returning to their civilian jobs, are eligible to apply.

With a nearly 20-year career in the military coming to a close, Master Sgt. Brendon Hollingsworth, of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, decided to enroll in MSSA as an educational path into the cyber security arena.

The program is a niche market for technology-based personnel, he said.

“It is a little upper-tiered, not based on rank or age, but on a niche market,” Hollingsworth explained. “It’s literally a blank slate, which is an awesome opportunity.”

Spc. Daphne Nicholson, 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, agreed.

“It’s an awesome way to get resources to further a career,” she said. “It was too good to pass up. The return on investment is a lot more than you really put into it. What you gain is going to be invaluable.”

After completion of the program, attendees are guaranteed a job interview at Microsoft or at one of 150 hiring partners, said Cortez.

The academy seems to be win-win situation for Microsoft and for service members.

“Microsoft recognizes the value of service members’ real-world experience, diversity, work ethic and clear sense of commitment to a mission,” explained Cortez who added that those attributes have strong applicability to the technology industry.

“Our part in the IT industry is to help service members transition from one great career to another and try to fill the talent gap in IT,” he said.

The next academy can accommodate 30 people, said Douglas Brauch, MSSA site manager. The entire program offers an ideal support network.

For more information about the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy at Fort Bragg, call 339-1567 or visit http://military.microsoft.com/training/mssa/.