Scottsdale nonprofit to train 50,000 vets to fill cyber workforce shortage

AcronisSCSVets, a nonprofit created last year to provide free cyber IT training and internationally-recognized certifications for veterans, has set a goal to put 50,000 veterans into the industry over the next five years. 

This month, the Scottsdale-based group graduated its first cohort of 14 top performers. Ten already have secured cybersecurity/IT jobs. 

Before COVID-19 hit, there was an enormous workforce shortage in the industry. Now the need is even more urgent, said John Zanni, the founder of AcronisSCSVets and CEO of Acronis SCS, a leader in edge data security and cyber protection in the U.S. public sector.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has seen nearly a 70 percent increase in cyberattacks,” Zanni said during the virtual commencement ceremony for the new grads. “The current fear and confusion present an opening for bad actors to capitalize on this and send malicious emails pretending they are the World Health Organization or the CDC to try to get to your systems.

“Once open, however, these attachments and links introduce ransomware and other attacks that can spread throughout the system, presenting particular challenges for public sector organizations trying to keep critical constituent services up and running while practicing social distancing.”

Companies of all sizes also are at risk, as hundreds of thousands of cybersecurity jobs go unfilled, Zanni said. 

Unfilled cybersecurity jobs to reach almost 3.5 million next year 

By 2022, the number of unfilled positions is expected to reach 1.8 million in the U.S., according to a report from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education. 

Globally, there are expected to be 3.5 million job vacancies by 2021, according to Cyber Security Ventures that has been tracking the jobs data for the past eight years.  

Of those applying for cybersecurity jobs, fewer than one in four are qualified, according to a 2018 report in MIT Technology Review.

Placing “underemployed” veterans in salaried jobs

In creating AcronisSCSVets, Zanni also wanted to help underemployed veterans. 

Though veterans overall have higher employment rates than non-veterans, they are underemployed in larger numbers, meaning they are not getting enough paid work or not doing work that makes full use of their skills and abilities. 

In fact, veterans are 37 percent more likely to be underemployed than nonveterans, shows a recent analysis by LinkedIn. 

Veterans like Shaun Johnson. After twenty years in the U.S. Navy, Johnson found himself earning an hourly wage in the produce section of a local grocery store. Then, he heard about the AcronisSCSVets program. He applied and the rest is history. 

Johnson now holds a salaried supervisory IT role in Arizona at a major name brand company.

“With this knowledge and tools that (the program) gave me, I was not only able to apply for a level 1 help desk job, I was able to secure a supervisory position, and a couple of weeks later, I was offered the opportunity to become a tech systems delivery manager.” 

Nine of the other graduates in the first cohort also have secured jobs in the field. Three others are seeking higher education or certifications. One is seeking employment. 

Goal to provide free training to 3,000 veterans in Arizona, 50,000 in U.S. 

Acronis SCSVets plans to train 50,000 veterans, service members, and military spouses nationwide over the next five years. 

In Arizona, it plans to train 3,000 during that time. Currently, there are nearly 13,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the state, according to CyberSeek.  

Ultimately, the organization would like to train more if it can secure appropriate funding from donations or grants, Zanni said.

Zero cost to veterans seeking cyber careers

At zero cost to qualified veterans, the program arms participants with credentials, skills, and resources necessary to secure entry level jobs in IT and cybersecurity. There’s also social services support and career services built in to ensure success. 

“Our students are prepared to excel in public and private sector organizations of all sizes, though our program is particularly beneficial for small- and medium-sized businesses, which are in critical need of qualified cyber talent, account for the majority of open U.S. jobs, and often lack veteran-specific hiring programs,” Zanni said.   

What AcronisSCSVets offers

• Cyber Certifications The curriculum prepares participants to obtain stacked cyber certificates, including internationally-recognized CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+, Windows 10, and Acronis SCS credentials.

• Career skills workshops and social services support Participants have access to quarterly, in-person, civilian-led career skills workshops, covering everything from social media

engagement to resumé building and mock interviews, and ongoing life skills resources and social services support.

Career pipelines After obtaining the right certificates, participants are connected with cyber and tech employers from a diverse and growing pool of industry partners.

For more information, to apply for the program or to give a donation, visit: Acronis SCSVets.

About Acronis SCS

Acronis SCS is an American cyber protection and edge data security company dedicated to serving the unique backup, anti-ransomware, disaster recovery, and enterprise file sync and share needs of the US public sector. Acronis SCS products are built and supported in the United States by US citizens.

Victoria Harker

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