Military Vets Could Help Build Cyber Security Workforce

Dan Gunderman

Attention! Cyber security training may be in the cards for veterans. At ease!

Despite the industry’s talent gap, there is an urgent demand for skilled and confident cyber security professionals. It seems one demographic could help alleviate that need: military veterans.

New programs are enticing veterans to take up careers in cyber security. This comes as the greater Washington, D.C. area continues to flourish as an intelligence and cyber security nerve center. Places like Arlington, Va., and Ashburn, Va., which some are touting as “Data Center Alley,” exemplify both the growth and gap.

As these epicenters expand and their footholds become stronger, the need for qualified cyber security candidates soars – by tens of thousands, in fact.

Hiring managers are tasked with impactful decisions, as threats grow stronger and more empowered each day. These employees have a chance to shape the future of the security workforce – in bringing on military veterans who know the game and who can utilize leadership skills in a slightly revised capacity.

See related: Cyber Security Skills Gap Becoming Increasingly Worrisome

There are specific qualities ingrained in military veterans that allow them to both function and succeed in a structured, high-stakes atmosphere. This could translate nicely for “Data Center Alley” and the “Cyber Corridor” of the Virginia area. Veterans are already close to this space – both literally and figuratively – and looking for private-sector work.

Director of Cyber Security Advocacy for (ISC)2, John McCumber, a veteran, told CIO Dive that a soldier’s skills training is conducive to the cyber security field – in helping carry out its “mission.” Some job-seeking veterans even have security clearances, which could be helpful, but are not a prerequisite for entry.

As CSHub previously reported, some projections place the skills gap at around 3.5 million jobs by 2021. Outside of the lengthy and generational attempts to bolster ranks with educational programs in IT, cyber security practitioners in the private sector could look to veterans. This is especially true in certain geographic areas, which become a microcosm of the larger demand.

States like Florida, New York, Texas and California, among others, offer tens of thousands of job opportunities, at present, in the cyber field. But these states are outpaced by Virginia, which listed 33,454 cyber security job openings between October 2016 and September 2017, according to CyberSeek Data.

See related: Public Sector Advancing Cyber Security With Bill, Research

There are other setbacks for the emerging professional, however, including training. In 2016, the Cyber Vets Virginia program provided free cyber training for veterans in the state looking to enter the field.

Part of the program offers certifications and relevant training, allowing veterans to widen their resumes as they transition to this different sector.

The certifications may not be required to apply for cyber security jobs, but they certainly enhance a candidate’s resume and provide practical training for the types of threats they might encounter. They also expose the veterans to the field’s best practices. For the enterprise, it could mean they hit the ground running.

Two hundred members could pass through the aforementioned training program by year’s end.

Some of the programs offered to veterans allow them to essentially capitalize on skills they’ve already acquired. The certifications make them more visible to a potential private-sector employer.

Companies like Microsoft, CompTIA and Cisco, among others, offer similar opportunities to these ambitious veterans (namely certification, training and interview opportunities with top companies).

For the enterprise, this means a larger pool of candidates, with diversified backgrounds and skillsets. It also means reducing the number of vacancies and building ranks with results-driven professionals who’ve long been exposed to “structure.”

Perhaps it is the partial remedy cyber security needs.