How Veterans Can Help Close the Cyber Skills Gap: Synergies Between National & Cyber Defense

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As we reflect on U.S. Veterans Day, our thoughts often turn to the difficult transition that many military veterans face as they move into the civilian workforce. Many veterans have a challenging time envisioning how their military skills transfer to civilian jobs, and many find the job-search process hard to navigate. 

At the same time, we face a huge talent gap in the cybersecurity industry. Some analyst firms predict a shortage of millions of employees by 2020. In fact, Cybersecurity Ventures, in its 2017 jobs report, predicts 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021, with growing cybercrime leading to a tripling of job openings in the next five years. 

That labor shortage is a huge problem for businesses, government agencies, and other organizations trying to keep their networks and data secure. 

One way to address this problem is matching up veterans retiring from the military with cybersecurity jobs. While the unemployment rate among veterans has been falling in recent years, younger veterans tend to have a harder time finding jobs than the rest of the U.S. population.

Fortinet sees a huge potential for military veterans to become excellent employees in cybersecurity fields, even though veterans may not immediately see how their training prepares them.

The reality is many veterans receive extensive technology-related training during their active service. Even when they haven’t received technology instruction, their training teaches them to operate effectively under extreme pressure and take quick responsibility for decisions. 

In recent years, Fortinet launched new initiatives aimed at helping veterans find cybersecurity jobs and at training students, recent graduates and other professionals to work in cybersecurity jobs. In 2013, we stood up the FortiVet Program, with the goal of training veterans for cybersecurity careers and helping them navigate the job-search process. 

FortiVet operates as part of the Fortinet Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) organization, after hearing our MSSP partners frequently asking us to refer qualified job candidates to them. 

The FortiVet Program, with no cost to enrollees or employers, provides the opportunity for veterans to receive cybersecurity technical training and IT certifications. Participants are enrolled in the Fortinet Network Security Expert (NSE) Program, where nearly 100,000 NSE certifications have been awarded to date. More advanced participants can acquire Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and other high-level certifications, including all eight levels of NSE training and certification as a part of internships with participating partners. 

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The program also assists veterans with soft skills, helping them learn how to interview for jobs, write resumes, and how to build and use a LinkedIn page. The soft skills program even helps them put together a personal “battlecard” that presents job candidates with a complete profile, with life objectives, interests, and pictures in uniform and civilian attire -- all to help employers visualize them playing a role in their organizations.

The FortiVet Program helps veterans make a “smooth transition” back into the civilian work world, said Joel Chapman, a former captain in the United States Marine Corps. The program leader “worked tirelessly with me, answering questions and helping me to understand a new environment and compare different opportunities,” he said. 

FortiVet helped Chapman streamline his job search, he said. “When I first began searching for jobs I was spending eight hours a day looking through job postings, completing applications, making phone calls, and trying to find contacts who could help me,” he added. “However, through the auspices of this program I was sought out by senior leadership at different companies to compete for positions with their organizations.” 

The FortiVet Program is especially valuable because it provides both technical and soft-skills training, added Christopher Armstrong, also a former captain in the United States Marine Corps. The program helps entry-level cybersecurity workers “bridge the skills gap through highly valuable training and certifications, all while providing them with general job-related skills such as interviewing, resume drafts, LinkedIn profile reviews, and more,” he said. 

For veterans with cybersecurity experience, the program gives them access to a “vast network of people and companies,” Armstrong added. “Great jobs are all about who you know and what you know, and FortiVet has all the answers.” 

In addition to the FortiVet Program, we have another program that students and veterans attending a university can take advantage of. In March 2016, Fortinet launched its Fortinet Network Security Academy (FNSA), designed to develop and train cybersecurity experts to manage new and advanced threats on the horizon.  

Working with 81 institutions, spanning 67 countries, the FNSA provides the widely recognized Fortinet training and certification programs to students around the world.  The goal is to address the international shortage of cybersecurity experts and to build a workforce with expertise in Fortinet’s end-to-end network security fabric. 

FNSA brings the training and certification opportunities previously only offered to Fortinet customers and partners to educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and veterans programs. Additionally, training for faculty is free. 

The Fortinet Network Security Academy allows schools to “provide enhanced cybersecurity training and education to our students,” said Rima Aristocrat, CEO of Willis College in Canada.

Putting these programs together to help bridge the cyber security skills gap, Fortinet is doing well, while doing good. 

On this Veterans Day, we encourage military veterans to consider cybersecurity careers, and we hope businesses will look to hire veterans as their next cybersecurity professionals.