In recent years, public and privately-owned US organizations have had to reconcile with the ongoing and persistent new threat of ransomware and cyberattacks. Properly fortifying an organization’s cyber defenses requires skillful personnel and specific expertise, and it’s important to understand there’s an untapped demographic of citizens that are more than well equipped to enter the field.
The US is home to more than 18 million veterans, with roughly 200,000 service members retiring their uniforms every year. While the military operates much differently than civilian life on a day-to-day basis, it is possible to adapt and apply many of these acquired skills to professional industries such as cybersecurity. Unfortunately, their paths to success are often obstructed by complex application processes and financial difficulties that lead to underemployment. To ease this transition, reskilling programs designed for veterans are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the cybersecurity and IT fields where new talent is needed.
Adjusting to the civilian workforce
Finding a job is usually a top priority for many veterans returning home, but the application process can be a daunting task. To start, vets need to update and/or draft a new resume that reflects their current skill set, and while this may seem simple, it can be difficult for veterans who find themselves with large professional gaps or are unsure how to translate their military expertise into basic work skills. The complexity of this process often discourages veterans from applying to positions they deem beyond their capabilities.
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Consequently, this limits job prospects and leads them to apply for entry-level employment opportunities or retail and food service positions that don’t require an advanced degree. These types of jobs can leave veterans significantly underemployed, which is a growing problem as veteran job seekers are often deemed overqualified for their starting position. Ultimately, this causes veterans to leave their first job after military service quicker, and the application process starts anew.
What’s clear is that veterans possess a highly transferable set of skills that can be valuable in the civilian workforce — they just need to find the right training program to enhance their talents. Rapidly growing industries such as cybersecurity could benefit from the expertise veterans can provide, especially when positions are in high demand.
The cybersecurity labor shortage
With more threat vectors than ever and bad actors continuously enhancing their hacking capabilities, the need for more knowledgeable cybersecurity personnel has become critical. Currently, 600,000 cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled with a sizable number of professionals saying they plan to quit the industry in the near future. This gap is creating a massive opportunity for veterans looking to start a new career in the cyber and IT fields.
Making the transition to cybersecurity may seem intimidating, but there are new programs aimed specifically at reskilling veterans and easing the application process for open positions. Within these programs, veterans are trained on the latest cyber protection techniques and learn how their own skills from military training can apply. Programs should also ensure that vets are pursuing the most relevant and in-demand certifications possible, as they signify to potential employers that applicants are qualified for the open position. This gives veterans a significant advantage, as ISACA discovered that 50 percent of hiring managers surveyed do not believe their applicants are well qualified.
Veteran reskilling programs to the rescue
There are now several organizations that cater these programs specifically to former and active military members. Nonprofits such as VetSec, NPower, IBM’s Veterans Employment Accelerator and Acronis SCSVets offer a variety of training programs to the military community, equipping participants with the robust training needed to earn the most in-demand cybersecurity and IT certifications in the field.
- VetSec: Accepts active-duty, reserve and veteran students and provides access to cutting-edge training and resources such as related educational conferences and workshops.
- NPower: Helps military veterans and young adults from underserved communities establish their digital careers. They offer 23-week long virtual training programs in tech fundamentals, cybersecurity, cloud computing and IT support.
- IBM’s Veterans Employment Accelerator: IBM provides veterans with a tool called SkillsBuild, a full service digital learning and instructor-led software training program that offers certification and job placement assistance to those pursuing careers.
- Acronis SCSVets: Provides participants with comprehensive training programs to help them further their careers, earn desirable cybersecurity certifications and give them the opportunity to consult with cyber industry experts on a regular basis.
Moreover, these programs are often offered at little to no cost because these organizations recognize the financial hardships that military personnel regularly endure.
Many veterans utilize their GI Bill funding for fields that have lesser upward mobility, leaving limited funding for additional retraining courses that will help them secure and maintain a sustainable and fulfilling career. Federal grants are increasingly being awarded to organizations such as those mentioned above that are taking the initiative to reskill veterans in the cybersecurity and IT fields. These grants not only fund veterans’ way through training programs, but also allow organizations to expand and enroll more students.
The military believes building a strong community within a base or post is just as important to a service member’s success as training or certifications. Once home, this structure is often lost, leaving veterans struggling to find new ways of maintaining social connections and keeping a routine intact. Reskilling programs offer companionship for vets who enjoy learning and congregating with fellow service members, making them feel a similar sense of purpose and belonging. In order for reskilling programs to succeed, it is imperative organizations take the veteran experience into account and create a learning environment that produces that familiar sense of community.
A bright future for veterans in the cyber industry
Increasing US cybersecurity threats underscore the importance of a strong cyber workforce, so it is crucial that unoccupied cybersecurity positions be filled as quickly as possible. Who better to safeguard America’s most vulnerable data than those who have already dedicated their lives to protecting its citizens?
With the help of scholarships and non-profit organizations, veterans can take the courses necessary to reapply their skills, receive cybersecurity certifications and fill these open positions. These programs will not only help eliminate America’s cyber workforce shortage, but they will also improve veteran underemployment issues. Luckily, veteran unemployment rates are decreasing, and offering reskilling cybersecurity courses will continue to contribute to their long-term economic and career growth success.
Lynndy Smith is the President of Acronis SCSVets, a non-profit organization that provides cybersecurity training courses and career development opportunities for veterans and their families. As president, Smith aims to reduce veteran and military spouses under and unemployment by arming its participants with the internationally-recognized credentials, skills, and resources they need to pursue self-sustaining cyber careers. Smith is also the VP of Government Affairs at Acronis SCS, and Chair of the West Valley Defense Alliance.