Pioneering ex-military talent consultancy launch pilot project to tackle UK digital skills shortage

Posted on Friday, July 15, 2022 by Simon OsborneNo comments

The shortage of skilled people to fill digital and cyber roles in the UK is well known, and continues to grow, but an innovative employment programme aims to close these skills gaps using the military talent pool

This Armed Forces week, SaluteMyJob, in partnership with the South West and Swindon and Wilts Cyber Security Clusters, IBM, Hirevue and SHL will launch a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) funded pilot of its new Cyber Career Jumpstart  programme. 

SaluteMyJob, a social enterprise supporting former Service men and women into civilian employment, is re-focussing its mission to focus on targeted pathways for veterans, military spouses and reservists to train and discover roles where employers face business critical skills. Given their acquired skills and experience, willingness to learn and ‘can do’ attitude, people from the Armed Forces community are well placed to fill these gaps in digital skills, including cyber security operations, project management and engineering.

Led by South West Cyber Security Cluster and with the engagement of SW based and nationwide employers, the project is designed to attract, select, qualify and place jobseekers from the Armed Forces community into either work placements or employment. Unlike other initiatives that focus on skills training, the Cyber Career Jumpstart programme uses such training as the means to an employment end, not the end in itself. Another key difference is the active engagement of signed up employer partners to offer advice, support and practical cyber work experience. These include Wood Group, Phoenix Group, PA Consulting, Cetsat and C3ia Solutions.

Military veteran and Wood plc’s Chief Information and Security Officer, Malcolm Norman, said: "Wood plc is a committed and proud supporter of the Armed Forces community with a vibrant and active Armed Forces Network. Having made the transition from the Armed Forces I understand the need to realign military skills and experience to be ‘fit to fight on the commercial battlefield. The Cyber Jumpstart programme is exactly what is needed to raise awareness of opportunities (especially in the burgeoning cyber security sector), provide relevant skills and qualifications and, most importantly of all, provide practical, hands-on experience. Wood is delighted to partner with SaluteMyJob to help develop the programme and offer work placement and, potentially, employment opportunities.”

Process for students going through the Cyber Security Jumpstart Programme

Durgan Cooper, Managing Director of CETSAT, said: "Like many specialist businesses, CETSAT's growth and success is dependent on skilled, quality employees. The skills gap in the cyber sector is well known; provision of solutions to the problem are in shorter supply. As a military veteran myself, I am delighted to support and actively engage my business with the Cyber Career Jumpstart programme and look forward to seeing cyber security become a career destination of choice for people from across the Armed Forces community.”

Andrew Jackson

Managing Director of SaluteMyJob, Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson, Managing Director of SaluteMyJob, said: “Thanks to UKC3 and the two South West based cyber clusters, we’re now able to team up with employers and like-minded organisations to offer defined, practical pathways to employment for members of the 6 million strong UK Armed Forces community. We all need guidance and support when transitioning from military to civilian life, so these pathways, and the work placement and job opportunities offered by employer partners, are designed to offer practical - and free - journeys into the roles where they are most needed.”

A key enabler of the project is IBM’s Skillsbuild platform that provides access to online and project based learning for the initial cohort of 100 learners. On successful completion of the 8 training modules and an assessment, participants will receive a professional certification as a Data Analyst. Employers partners will then offer practical work experience to allow learners to develop and apply their skills and to improve their CV, or jobs for those with the requisite skills and experience.

The training pathways are designed to help those in the Armed Forces Community hone new skills, fill gaps in their CVs, and begin a new career in digital roles, including cyber security, engineering, project and security operations management. These sectors are experiencing a shortage of skilled people and the military talent pool is well-equipped to fill these positions with their highly sought-after soft and hard skills. 

Julian Meyrick, Vice President, WW Security Strategy Risk & Compliance practice, has influenced the SkillsBuild cybersecurity offerings based on how he sees the industry evolving. He said: “We need to increase diversity in thought to address the challenge of a very diverse set of threat actors in cybersecurity. That’s why we’re broadening the ecosystem to develop and deploy talent. By partnering with organisations rooted in diverse communities, providing high-quality qualifications as an alternative to a four-year degree, and bringing industry on board to offer placements, we can give opportunities to those often left behind while narrowing the critical skills gap.”

Veteran Menbahadur Gurung, Cyber Career Jumpstart learner, now working for IBM

Menbahadur Gurung, Cyber Career Jumpstart learner, now working for IBM, said: "I knew when I left the Army that cyber security offered great opportunities for people with military security training and experience. However, coming from an infantry background, I knew very little about the cyber security industry or where to start to get the skills and experience I needed. The Cyber Career Jumpstart programme provided me with an understanding of the fast developing cyber security world, the technical training I needed and, most importantly of all, a work placement in a commercial cyber team to develop my skills and apply my knowledge in a practical way. I am delighted that other jobseekers from the Armed Forces community will be able to benefit from the programme and I encourage anyone with military experience to use the programme to help them find a second career in cyber security.” 

Robin King, Chair of SW Cyber Security Cluster said: "The South West Cyber Security Cluster is thrilled to have been awarded this grant from UKC3 to pilot an innovative programme to attract, train, qualify and place jobseekers from the Armed Forces community into cyber security roles. The future success and growth of businesses who are members of our cluster are constrained by the current and projected shortage of skilled professionals. By engaging employers - especially SMEs - directly with learners and helping them to gain relevant experience, we are confident this collaborative initiative will help them develop an increasing source of quality talent. Alongside meeting the needs for enhanced social value within our region we think this project can make a real difference." 

Paddy Bradley, CEO of Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, said: "The Swindon and Wiltshire LEP has a track record of supporting programmes to develop the skills of the current and future workforce to take the jobs created by the businesses in our area. This is why we are delighted to support the Cyber Career Jumpstart Programme working with our partners from South West Cyber Security Cluster, SaluteMyJob, IBM, Hirevue and SHL. The cyber industry is a significant and growing sector of the economy. Our partnership will deliver the right skills at the right time to deliver our plans for growth."

Read more about how veterans can help close the digital skills gap here. To apply or find out more about the programme, click here.

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