UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Launches Pilot Program for Student Veterans
March 2023: Editor's note: This pilot program has been sunset and is not taking any new students.
November 11, 2021--United States government agencies, defense contractors and National Labs regularly report shortages of U.S. graduates with STEM degrees who can work in areas requiring security clearances. At the same time, the process of transitioning from military service to a STEM degree program and then to a job in a national security area is often not simple. The Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego is working to address these challenges through a new pilot program called the Veteran Forge, which it announced on Nov. 11, 2021.
The Veteran Forge program is designed to support qualifying veterans working toward an engineering or computer science degree at UC San Diego on their path to employment in national security careers. The hope is to provide a job upon graduation at one of the Veteran Forge partner organizations. At the same time, the program offers these organizations access to top talent from the #9 engineering school in the nation, knowing that these veterans are qualified for the required security clearances.
“The Veteran Forge program will be a great resource for our student veterans," said Albert P. Pisano, dean of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. "I anticipate that this program, by facilitating connections between our student veterans and employers in the defense space and at National Labs, will further establish UC San Diego as a destination for world class education and top engineering talent and leadership for all those involved."
In its initial rollout as a pilot, the Veteran Forge program will be open to veterans currently enrolled in master’s degree programs at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. If accepted into the program, student veterans will participate in a soft-skill curriculum, as well as a paid summer internship at one of the partnering institutions. Students and partners will participate in a match program similar to that used for medical school residency, to place students into careers at participating employers upon graduation.
"There are so many opportunities for veterans to go on to further serve our country through civilian national security roles,” said Pisano. “I’m proud and excited that the Jacobs School can provide this needed support to our veterans, while at the same time helping our defense and National Lab partners find the right people for these crucial jobs.”
Launching a pilot allows the Jacobs School to grow the program as it works out the fine details and looks to offer the ability to include student veterans from undergraduates to doctoral students, from across campus. Another goal is to open the program to a wider variety of employers. Additionally, the vision is for Veteran Forge to assist community college student veterans, and individuals nearing separation from the service, with their education and career goals.
"This program aims to provide the support structure and job outcomes that will enable our veterans to thrive, while providing defense organizations the uniquely qualified talent they need,” said Lon McPhail, himself a Navy veteran, director of corporate research partnerships at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, and inaugural Veteran Forge executive director.
With the pilot phase ramping up, there will be a limited number of slots for employers in the defense space and at National Labs to participate. Participating organizations will each commit to hosting students for summer internships; providing input in the soft-skills component of the program; mentoring participating student veterans; and hiring several Veteran Forge graduates each year.
UC San Diego is a natural fit for this program, as the region is home to the nation’s largest military community, housing one out of every four US. Marines, and one out of every six sailors. San Diego is also home to more than 2,000 defense companies, as well as the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, the largest engineering school on the west coast.
The new program is designed to complement existing services offered by UC San Diego's Student Veterans Resource Center.
Javier Garay, Associate Dean for Research and professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is the Faculty Director of the Veteran Forge pilot program.
Jacobs School of Engineering