SAN MARCOS — California State University at San Marcos (CSUSM) recently received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense that will help student veterans discover careers in sustainable energy.
The university had previously received a Veterans to Energy Careers (VTEC) grant in the amount of $3 million from the Office of Naval Research back in 2018 when the program was established at CSUSM.
The original grant of $3 million required VTEC to place at least 30 student veterans into internships at any given time. Under the terms of the new grant, which began Aug. 1, that reach has increased to 50 internships.
Established in 2012, VTEC has been helping veterans transition into sustainable careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
To address the shortage in the STEM workforce, VTEC established a workforce development program, funded by the Office of Naval Research, that provides paid internships, mentorship and career development, leading to careers in the Department of Defense as well as the private sector and defense industries.
“One of the things that’s really beautiful about this grant is that we will be able to help that many more student veterans capitalize on their prior-enlisted skill sets and put them to use with their academic major choice and future career,” said Dr. Paul Tontz, the principal investigator for VTEC and the director of Veteran Services at CSUSM. “Another benefit is that this funding really highlights Cal State San Marcos’ role in helping student veterans and military-connected students prepare for a life of giving back in meaningful ways.”
With the help of this grant, student veterans have the opportunity to participate in efforts ranging from cutting-edge research to new product development, increasing their chances for full-time employment in sustainable energy.
“There was a desire to bridge what veterans are doing in their academic courses with their military experience and put them on a trajectory to a career,” Tontz said. “That’s why the ONR is such a fan of this grant because it really taps into that previous military experience.”
VTEC has also expanded its connections from its West Coast reach to include the Eastern seaboard, creating more opportunities for more student veterans.
“This unique program merges academia, naval commands and industry to advance energy technologies and develop the nation’s STEM workforce by leveraging the resources of the triad,” said VTEC Founder Dr. Patricia Reily on the program’s website.
CSUSM is home to 478 student veterans and serves almost 2,000 military-connected students; which is 12% of the campus population.