To learn more about COVID-19’s impact on Veterans’ education trends, VA turned to social media, using the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology to better understand GI Bill® stakeholders’ needs and priorities. Analyzing social media data is an emerging method that allows us to explore more than what a traditional survey could show, and it helps us collect actionable insight from an even larger audience.
What we found
After looking at 100,000+ posts from 70,000+ authors on public facing digital and social media platforms, we categorized the data into four main topic areas: health and safety, education and job training, employment and job market, and financial.
While data show an increase in health and safety concerns (91% citing COVID-19 as a main concern), the main focus of online conversation (62%) was on future-proofing careers and using the GI Bill to gain a competitive advantage in the job market.
Additionally, we identified the following trends:
- Many Veterans are considering launching a career in, or re-skilling in, the advanced technology field. Data show 86% of GI Bill beneficiary conversations are about re-skilling and preparing for future jobs.
- Many cite using the GI Bill as a vehicle for opening doors to job opportunities – with little to no student loans.
- Veterans are actively seeking ways to remain competitive in today’s job market, especially during COVID-19. Data show a 60% increase in conversations that cite unemployment as a reason to use the GI Bill.
- Many conversations credit the GI Bill with helping rebuild the country and seeding the U.S. economy with higher skilled workers. For example, there are nearly 1,200 Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) program graduates today starting their careers in advanced technology with job titles including software engineer, technology consultant, cyber security analyst, data scientist and full-stack developer.
We encourage you to take a look at our GI Bill Sentiment Analysis Infographic to learn more about some of the most pressing issues for GI Bill students. Our recently updated COVID-19 FAQs include lessons learned from this analysis, and we look forward to applying this data to inform our future communications and programs.
Terry Warren is the stakeholder engagement supervisor at the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Education Service.