‘Abstract thinking, project management, the ability to leverage intelligence, to pursue an attacker; these are all things that combat veterans do on land, air and sea’
In a bid to fill many needed government cybersecurity positions, EY Canada and a veterans training organization are partnering to offer veterans the opportunity to become equipped with IT skills.
The “WithYouWithMe” program was started in Australia in 2015 by veterans with the goal to help other veterans find jobs after leaving the military. EY is working with the organization and the federal government in providing cybersecurity employees.
“All military personnel are trained to do extraordinary things in a short period of time — whether it’s drive a tank, fly a plane, work in a submarine,” says Jamie O’Hare, associate partner in cybersecurity at EY Canada in Ottawa.
Other skills gained during military training are also valuable in cyber education, he says.
“Abstract thinking, project management, the ability to leverage intelligence, to pursue an attacker; these are all things that combat veterans do on land, air and sea. If we simply change the terrain to cyber, a lot of those skill sets can be transferred.”
The consulting firm realized veterans could be a help when it came to one of the government’s big problems — finding people to work in a highly specialized area to protect and maintain public assets, says O’Hare.
“The challenge within cyber is there’s just not a supply of resources that are security cleared in Ottawa to help with project delivery, and for ongoing cyber requirements.”
“There are hundreds of job openings within cyber over the next five years in the government of Canada, so how are you going to scale to that size? We can’t do it in the traditional ways — one or two people at a time coming out of certification or college or university, or even 30 people at a time, it’s just not going to cut it. That gap between demand and supply is just going to continue to grow.”
WithYouWithMe provides computer training in IT, specifically in cyber, data analytics and cloud, says O’Hare, using a self-paced, online training platform.
“The initial training is usually between 100 and 190 hours before they become deployable [so] they can go into a job or are matched with a job.”
There is no cost to the veterans, he says, and the participants are able to continue training for years afterward, while remaining employed.
“Military folks, they’re used to constant training, consistently upskilling and so that’s the environment that the WithYouWithMe training platform provides to them,” he says.
The training is certified with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and GCHQ, the U.K. intelligence, cyber and security agency.
Veterans who pass courses are eligible to be placed within about 43 departments under Shared Services Canada, and the effort is part of the Cyber Workforce Enablement Program (CWEP). Currently, more than 1,000 Canadian veterans are registered with the program, says O’Hare.
“There are tons of training platforms out there that will give you certification, but the challenge with that is there’s no connective tissue to once you have certification to getting into a role or a career or job,” he says. “It is great for veterans and underrepresented groups. It helps them find meaningful employment. It gives them opportunity, but it’s also wonderful for government and Canadians because we’re now able to put more, pun intended, soldiers into the fight against cybercrime.”