How offering conversion training to ex-military personnel can help close the notable skills gap in cybersecurity

 Julian Meyrick

Julian Meyrick

Research by Frost and Sullivan confirms there is a significant gap of available qualified cybersecurity professionals and states there will be 1.8 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2022. (1)

With such a high demand for cybersecurity professionals and a notable shortage of talent, a new executive report from IBM’s Institute for Business Value (2) looks at how to close this gap by filling cybersecurity roles through a “new collar” approach that involves tapping professionals who may not have a traditional college degree - but who do have in-demand technical skills and aptitudes.

SaluteMyJob interviewed head of IBM's Security Division in Europe, Julian Meyrick, a former Regimental Signals Officer, who served for six years in the Royal Green Jackets in the British Army. Mr Meyrick discusses how veterans are a valuable talent pool that could help fill the large number of vacant cybersecurity roles and how offering conversion training to ex-military personnel is a way of addressing and closing this notable gap.

What core attributes do ex-military personnel have that employers are looking for in cybersecurity professionals?

Within the IBM report, the core attributes and skills that employers are looking for in cybersecurity professionals are broken down into five categories: Explorer, Problem Solver, Student, Guardian and Consultant.

Mr Meyrick said he believes the Guardian core attribute is one aspect you know you are going to get from veterans. He explained further: “You are going to get someone with high ethical standards, someone who is reliable and who understands as a core attribute that their role is to protect customers. Clearly, they need to learn the specific regulation laws and policies and the ability to interpret them, but they will bring many other soft skills that we find very difficult to interview for. For example, military professionals are proven self-starters, they tend to be motivated, and they take the initiative.”

The report also looks at how new collar talent strategies can help fill both technical and non-technical roles. Mr Meyrick highlighted a number of these roles, including Operator and Communicator (3) positions, that veterans would be ideally suited for.

Looking specifically at operators, which includes threat monitoring analysts, penetration testers, Security Operations Centre analyst and cyber operations manager roles, he said: “Anybody who has worked in the operations centre in a warship, in a military unit or in a RAF station are going to have a lot of experience of both dealing with incidents and also training to deal with incidents. I think for me, taking veterans and turning them into operators is something relatively easy to do. They have a lot of the soft skills that are essentially difficult to train people for.”

IBM and Veterans

IBM understands the value and skillset veterans can bring to its business and employs hundreds of ex-military personnel in the UK. In the US, IBM announced in March this year it will hire 2,000 US veterans over the next four years. Here in the UK, it has an ongoing partnership with SaluteMyJob and The Corsham Institute to provide veterans with free training and certification in IBM’s i2 Analyst’s Notebook data analysis and QRadar cyber security products. Almost 100 veterans have now qualified as data analysts thanks to IBM, SaluteMyJob and The Corsham Institute.

It makes great business sense to upskill and train veterans as they are a set of people with the soft skills that we know are difficult to interview for. With skills training and investment, we can get them ready to take on the roles we need to fill.
— Julian Meyrick

IBM actively recruits veterans - and continues to support ex-military employees once they join the business.                                          

“We have a relationship with the Career Transition Partnership and we have done some work with the Wounded Injured and Sick around helping people understand that there is role in the workplace for people with disabilities,” explained Mr Meyrick. “Within the organisation, we also have a military network supporting veteran employees and when veterans join the business, we offer them a mentor from IBM who comes from a similar military background, so the individual has someone who they can talk to in their own individual language.”

He explained further: “There is a huge shortage of people in the cybersecurity marketplace. I am constantly trying to hire as we have grown very fast since 2012. So I’m using this new collar approach to try and find pools of people we can bring in with diverse backgrounds and the right mix of skills. So for me, it makes great business sense to upskill and train veterans as they are a set of people with the soft skills that we know are difficult to interview for. With skills training and investment, we can get them ready to take on the roles we need to fill.”

So what advice would you give to other businesses looking to provide conversion training to veterans?

1.     Find a partner: Mr Meyrick said: “Finding a partner, like SaluteMyJob, who can get you access to veterans with the right motivation and the right backgrounds - that is really key. What SaluteMyJob gives us is access to this talent pool because it is really difficult for employers to find veterans.”

2.     Introduce veterans to employers: “Get employers to turn up to talk on the training course. The employer gets to meet that talent pool and see the potential value of that pool and for the veteran, not only does it mean that they get to learn some new skills - but they get to hear from a potential employer and understand what that potential employer is looking for,” he advised. For example, on the most recent IBM, SaluteMyJob and Corsham Institute training course, a recruiter from Satisnet attended to speak to the students, with four students taken on as apprentices.

To read It’s not where you start–it’s how you finish: Addressing the cybersecurity skills gap with a new collar approach, visit: https://securityintelligence.com/closing-the-cybersecurity-skills-gap-with-a-new-collar-approach/


Footnotes:

(1) Frost & Sullivan : “The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity.”. March 2017. https://iamcybersafe.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/WomensReport.pdf
(2) IBM Institute for Business Value report: ”It’s not where you start–it’s how you finish: Addressing the cybersecurity skills gap with a new collar approach”, May 2017. Page 7
(3) Ibid, page 9-10


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Want to find out more about employing veterans? Download the full Capitalising on military talent: Everything you need to know about employing veterans here.