Veterans reskill with cyber lessons

James Riley
Editorial Director

Australian military veterans will be trained as cybersecurity experts in the Department of Human Services as part of a new government program.

The federal government has partnered with employment platform WithYouWithMe to re-skill 36 navy, army and airforce veterans across three years through a 12-month contract working to protect Australia’s welfare system cyber security.

The Department currently employs about 200 people full-time in its cyber security department, working to shore up the welfare system platform.

Michelle Price: The new program will help plug the skills gap

Four of the new recruits have started their contracts today, the government said, with the veterans undergoing “extensive on the job training” while testing for vulnerabilities with the department’s ICT environment.

Human services minister Michael Keenan said the veterans will be able to utilise the skills obtained during their service.

“Veterans make excellent employees – they’ve got great initiative, work well as a team, have leadership skills and are very adaptive and resilient. We have programs across government to encourage the private sector to employ veterans, and we’re leading the way within government doing this,” Mr Keenan told Sky News.

“These men and women will gain invaluable experience in a vitally important and growing new industry which is expected to be hit by skills shortages in the not too distant future.”

The veterans’ contract with the department will run for 12 months, when they will then be skilled as cyber security experts, Mr Keenan said.

“For the veterans involved, that means they’ll walk out of this particular opportunity with a very saliable skillset, because cyber security experts are a highly sought after specialist at the moment,” he said.

The new program demonstrates how government can lead the way in transitioning workers into cyber and addressing the “critical” skills gap in the sector, AustCyber CEO Michelle Price said.

“The announcement is what I would consider a flagship example of how you can transition workers, not just those coming out of a military environment, but how we can transition people more broadly. The government can absolutely be an early adopter and an exemplar around how to do that in the economy. It’s a really great way to demonstrate how the government is able to do that,” Ms Price told

Members of the Australian cyber security industry have long-been calling for the sector to work to bring in individuals from other lines of work in order to combat the growing skills gap.

Speaking to late last year, PwC’s Asia-Pacific Cyber Lead Steve Ingram said he has former defence employees on his team already.

“They speak the language, they understand and they already have security clearances. They have great skills, they are well trained and they are ready to embrace the private sector world. It’s not until you step outside the environment of law enforcement or defence that you realise you have great skills. You have the ability to work under pressure, and in the line of danger, and those are things that not everyone has,” Mr Ingram said.

AustCyber has said that an estimated 11,000 qualified professionals need to meet today’s challenges. Earlier this month, WithYouWithMe – the same organisation working with DHS on the veterans program – received $150,000 from AustCyber to add 75 new students into the cyber security industry.

It’s now time to be backing proven programs to address the skills gap, and look to train the skills within Australia rather than import them from overseas, Ms Price said.

“We’re doing this at a holistic national level and allowing the winning ideas to get some rocket fuel behind them and be able to scale on that issue of tightening up and addressing the skills shortage. Through these kinds of efforts we’re rapidly closing that gap that exists between having to import skills, and flipping that on its head and generating skills at home,” she said.

“We don’t have time anymore to fund lots and lots of little things that might not go anywhere. It’s clear now that what we need to do to address the shortages is to attract and retain staff in the sector and have upskilling across the economy.”

The cyber security industry is currently facing a major skills gap, with available positions far outrstripping the number of people who can fill them, according to an Australian information Security Association’s Cyber Skills Shortage Study. According to the study, employers are currently reluctant to fill entry level positions, and are looking for people with existing skills rather than those who are more suited to the role.

Veterans’ Affairs minister Darren Chester said the government’s new program will benefit veterans and Australian cyber security companies.

“By working and partnering with government, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Defence and the business community, we can all help to make a difference in assisting our ex-serving men and women secure meaningful employment on transition. I’ve seen up close the professionalism, the dedication, the leadership and teamwork of our highly-skilled ADF personnel. Now what employer wouldn’t want those skills in their workplace, hiring a veteran is good for your business,” Mr Chester said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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