(BPT) - May marks Military Appreciation Month, a time to reflect on the more than 21 million military veterans living in the U.S., many who are faced with the decision of ‘what’s next for my career?’ after returning to civilian life.

Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of service members leave the military without a job. And one of the biggest challenges in the transition from military to civilian work life is a change in education needs, according to a 2015 veterans study.

Some educational institutions have made veteran job placements a priority, including Kendall College, Chicago’s number one culinary and hospitality school. In partnership with The Department of Veteran Affairs, Hilton Worldwide and La Quinta Inn, Kendall established a Veteran Hospitality Education Program, designed to help veterans and their spouses receive education and experience that can lead to a career in hospitality management with Hilton Worldwide and La Quinta Inn. This collaboration between academic training and industry experience provides a key element in the preparation and placement of veterans as they transition to civilian life.

"I was excited to join the Hospitality Educational Program because it provides me with a pathway to a new career after my military service,” says Cassandra Ekblad, former Army cryptologic linguist and current student in the program. “I see the hotel industry as a place where I can interact with people, use my language skills and build a second career."

The hospitality industry is booming, not just in the U.S., but internationally as well. The travel and tourism industry is among the largest and fastest-growing industries worldwide, forecasted to support 328 million jobs, or 10 percent of the workforce, by 2022 according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. In Chicago alone, the city is poised to offer more than 165,000 new hospitality careers by 2020.

Many of the job qualities that veterans bring to civilian life can be translated to the hospitality industry, including its mobile and tactile nature, defined instruction and focus on results. But to Kendall College, it’s more than that.

“These aren’t just ‘jobs’ for veterans, they have the potential to become careers,” says Emily Knight, president of Kendall College. “As a daughter of two Navy veterans and a former military spouse, it’s personal to me to make sure our veterans succeed and we’re proud to be a part of developing their career in hospitality.”

To learn more about the program, visit kendall.edu.