REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced a new program to provide software development training and testing to U.S. active duty service members transitioning out of the military. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy aims to offer America's veterans the opportunity for new careers in the growing technology field. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20000822/MSFTLOGO) "American service members possess the drive, self-discipline and problem-solving skills that are essential for the technology industry," said Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith. "The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy is a bridge between one great career — serving in the U.S. military — and another, creating technologies that improve lives." The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy consists of a 16-week course to prepare U.S. service members to obtain the certification required for technology careers such as a developer, applications engineer and IT project manager. Beginning as a pilot program with Saint Martin's University at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state — the largest military installation west of the Mississippi — the program will be available later this year on key bases in California and Texas, with additional locations to be announced in coming months. Active duty service members transitioning from all branches of the military as well as members of the National Guard and Reserves returning to their civilian jobs are eligible for the academy. In addition to receiving a Microsoft IT Academy-powered curriculum provided by Saint Martin's University, service members who complete the pilot program will be hired into entry-level roles as software testers by either Microsoft or Launch Consulting, the technology consulting firm administering the program. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy was inspired by the " VOW to Hire Heroes Act," legislation that was signed into law in 2011. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D- Wash., allows service members to begin the employment process before their separation from the military to facilitate a seamless transition from the military to other jobs. "Providing on-the-job training for transitioning service members into high-tech jobs is exactly what our legislation was written to accomplish," said Sen. Murray. "Our veterans have the talent and training to succeed in any workplace, and the technology industry is a particularly great fit. This new program demonstrates that more employers see the value of what veterans offer, especially in jobs that require hard work and collaboration."