When Chris Crace, a Marine Corps captain, left the military in August 2006 he wasn't sure what to do next — a dilemma for many former military personnel.
But Crace eventually found his footing in private industry, and is working to help other veterans make that same transition. "I feel very heavy on my shoulders to give opportunity and break down walls," he said.
While most former military personnel do not have cybersecurity training, they do have compatible skills, including data analysis, an enemy mindset and teamwork that transition well. "Former military hires are very focused by nature and work well with others," said David Burg, a cybersecurity professional.
Crace is the veterans advocacy leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Earlier this month, the consulting firm started a cybersecurity boot camp to give veterans training in the tech field. The first class of 41 former military personnel began Feb. 1.
Unemployment for all U.S. veterans has fallen to 5.3 percent, lower than the rate for nonveterans, according to the Department of Labor. Still, younger veterans face higher unemployment than their peers as they've had less time to translate their skills into civilian work than older veterans.
The veterans in the program are getting the hands-on training needed to succeed in cybersecurity, a field that has more jobs than the industry can fill. By 2020, there are expected to be 1.5 million unfilled jobs in cybersecurity, according to the 2015 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study, released in April.
The skills the veterans are learning include computer fundamentals, securing a network and testing for vulnerabilities, said Burg, PwC's global and U.S. advisory cybersecurity leader.
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And PwC's cybersecurity boot camp program is not about charity, but rather about getting much-needed, qualified talent into the pipeline.
"Our vision for this program wasn't to make a dent in veteran hiring, [but rather to] differentiate us [PwC] and help us meet the needs of our clients with the current talent shortage," Crace said in a phone interview.
To attract more veterans into cybersecurity, PwC decided to change its job descriptions to allow the hiring of former military personnel without a bachelor's degree.
"Do you really need a degree for technical work?" said Crace.
However, there are some differences between the military and corporate life.
"The big difference between the military and professional services, like PwC, is that we want to people to suggest ways to make things better. In the military you have to be careful to follow orders," Burg said in a phone interview.
To help the new hires transition even after boot camp, PwC assigns battle buddies, a former veteran already working for the company who can provide advice and guidance. The firm also wants the new hires to stay for the long run, so they plan to continue to check in with the boot camp graduates to determine a career path.
The two-year mark is an important milestone for veterans because that's when you are likely to get promoted or get antsy, according to Crace.
PwC plans to repeat the cybersecurity boot camp with future hires to continue to fill openings in its cybersecurity consulting practice.