Veterans may be the answer to the cyber skills shortage in tech

BY ESTEFANIA VEIRA – Marketing Manager DSS – (First published May 2020)   

On Friday, 1st May, Digital Skills Solutions (DSS) and Forces Cyber Pathways (FCP) launched their Military Development programmes, which aim to tackle the digital skills shortage across all industries by training and supporting military veterans. In line with current affairs, the event took the form of a webinar and saw over 100 attendees. 

Air Commodore Rick Peacock-Edwards CBE, a highly acclaimed fighter pilot and leader with vast experience in business at Managing Director level, hosted the webinar. He introduced high-calibre professionals, including the National President of the Royal British Legion, Lt General James Bashall CB CBE and Maj General Chip Chapman CB.

Lt General James Bashall kicked off the webinar by saying “I believe that veterans have a great deal to offer the civilian employment market. The vast majority of those I have served with match the skill set that is needed in the private sector“. He highlighted veterans’ loyalty, self-discipline, and punctuality, only to name a few. 

Maj General Chip Chapman, a veteran of the Falklands war and former head of Counter-Terrorism for the MOD, followed. He pointed out the immediate need for increasing corporate resilience concerning cyber threats. He remarked that there’s a place for veterans in this department, especially considering that cyber attacks have increased 50% since the lockdown began. To illustrate the cyber skills shortage, he quoted GCHQ, who has frequently said that we will run out of people before we run out of money in this area. Furthermore, since four out of five businesses lack the required infrastructure or security professionals with the relevant skills to defend themselves against cyberattacks, this is a business issue, not merely an IT or technology one. 

Other keynote speakers included respected CISO and veteran, Mo Ahddoud, and Jake Barker, who recently transitioned from the military and is the current Head of InfoSec at TOG.

Mo Ahddoud echoed the words of Chip Chapman. He touched upon the way veterans present themselves professionally and encouraged them to translate the skills they’ve acquired in the field more accurately in relation to the private sector. He also urged veterans not to undersell themselves as their skills are, indeed, valuable and much needed.

Jake Barker closed the first part of the event, highlighting the importance of both networking and personal development. He highly recommended professional certifications, such as CompTIA Security+. In his words, ‘networking has got me the interviews and personal development got me the job offers‘.

Focusing on corporate benefits, Steve Maguire, Forces Cyber Pathway’s CEO, put across a business case for hiring veterans after shedding some light on the current situation for service leaders. Seven per cent are unemployed within the first six months, which translates into double the national unemployment rate. How can this be possible considering that veterans are a valuable and differentiating resource? Not only do they have strong leadership and teamwork skills, with a clear understanding of the chain of command, but also they can operate in rapidly changing and discontinuing environments. In light of this, Steve called to mind that the Office for Veterans’ Affairs announced that any company that hire veterans will save the first year of national insurance from April 2021, saving enterprises 4-5K per hire.

Finally, Theresa Bray, Digital Skills Solutions’ Executive Director, gave a brief overview of DSS and the military development programmes. DSS works across a large number of the technology sectors, including cyber and security systems. By delivering apprenticeships in levels 3, 4 and 5 in all these technology sectors and working closely with employers, DSS ensures the skills gap in these areas are met. And thanks to the apprenticeship levy, businesses can support the training for apprentices at no cost for them. In the end, she reassured that “Working with Forces Cyber Pathways to train and support veterans will grant the pathways for service leavers to join tech jobs through apprenticeships”.

Watch the full webinar –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORVSn5bWrfU&feature=youtu.be

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