AUSTIN — Joshua Wilson was always drawn to learning about cybersecurity.
“I had a friend back in Washington D.C. and I would hang out with him from time to time,” Wilson said. “He would tell me some of the stories of some of the things he got to do in the cybersecurity industry. Each time I got to hear a new little snippet about what he was doing, I was always like, ‘Man, that’s really cool.’”
Wilson, 30, is one of six graduates of CyberDefenses’ apprentice program. The program provides certification, hands-on training and job placement. Research from Frost & Sullivan and International Information System Security Certification Consortium shows the global cybersecurity workforce is projected to have more than 1.5 million unfilled positions by 2020. It’s a challenging number to think about with rising cyber threats. Cybercrime is a rapidly growing business.
“They’re extremely bad,” founder Randell Casey said. “They’re worse than they’ve ever been because now there’s a benefit to the threat actors.”
The CyberDefenses Apprentice Program is delivered in three phases, which includes getting the apprentices the most basic knowledge and progressing to hands-on training in advanced concepts. Wilson received a small stipend from CyberDefenses, which made his participation in a program like this possible.
“It’s very exciting to know that I’m going to be there on the front line, helping to take care of the problems that our country, both in the commercial and public sectors, are facing,” he said. “We’ve been working a lot on election security, but we’ve also been working with companies like banks and private hospitals. A lot of these community organizations, they sometimes have a small security budget and for them to hire on their own security staff would bankrupt them. Being able to hire us on to take care of these problems for them so they don’t have to keep hunting down experts to take care of this kind of makes it easier for them.”
The foundation for the program was inspired by Casey’s experiences in the military.
“You always bring in new people, new cultures and you train continuously,” Casey said.
“The threats are evolving so quickly that the shortage or the force pool and education awareness hasn’t been there,” he continued. “In order to keep pace with jobs and the vacancies that are being created, it’s not enough just to steal from other companies or try to recruit. There’s a small pool of people, so we felt like we needed to start growing our own.”
The six apprentices graduated from the program at the Texas State Capitol Wednesday afternoon, which lines up with National Apprenticeship Week.
“Just in Texas alone, nearly 25,000 jobs are open,” Ernesto Ballesteros, Texas State Cybersecurity Coordinator, said. “There aren’t enough bodies to fill. The problem that we have here today is that when we say bodies, we’re quite literally talking about people who can breathe and sit in a seat.”
The company partners with the Texas Workforce Commission, Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, Austin Community College and the U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship USA Program.