There’s a problem in the UK tech industry and it’s staring us in the face.
The tech industry is growing at twice the rate of the wider economy and now contributes around £97bn a year, up 30pc in five years.
And yet only 4% of military veterans work in ICT, which is 20% less than non-veterans. Yes, a military veteran is five times less likely to go into tech than a non-veteran. That’s crazy.
Meanwhile, 45% of businesses claim to have a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills and 67% of cybersecurity professionals claim they are too busy with their jobs to keep up with skills development and training.
It’s clear, despite its huge growth in the UK, the tech industry is not tapping into the enormous amounts of unrealised human potential contained in the people who are leaving our armed forces. People who have literally put their lives on the line for the country.
The problem is acute. Every year there are over 15,000 ‘service leavers’ leaving the UK military. And right now there are over 900,000 working-age veterans in the UK and other estimates say there are 220,000 who are unemployed or inactive.
That has to change. That’s why today I am backing the launch of a new non-profit to address this issue: TechVets.
Next week in London, TechVets will launch on 8 March at Level 39, in Canary Wharf, with an audience of veterans, tech business leaders and investors.
TechVets will be a not-for-profit which provides a bridge for veterans and service leavers into cybersecurity and technology.
Veterans possess unrivalled leadership, crisis management and problem-solving skills which have been forged in the toughest environments. When given effective transition support, veterans have the potential to contribute an enormous amount to the future of the UK’s tech, cybersecurity and startup sectors.
TechVets is being backed by General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE (pictured), who served as Commander Joint Forces Command, one of the six “Chiefs of Staff” leading the UK Armed Forces until April 2016. He says: “The transferable skills of the veteran community are a national resource and have a vital role to play in supporting the security and prosperity of the nation.”
At the launch, TechVets is announcing details of their first support programme, a Digital Cyber Academy, with Immersive Labs. This will provide free Cyber-Security training to the first cohort from the service leaver and veteran community.
TechVets will bring people together: serving as a catalyst to foster greater dialogue and creating connections between veterans and the technology and cyber security sectors and to highlight the strong mutual benefits. By leveraging the extensive networks of the TechVets founders, and organising resources made available by businesses, TechVets creates and curates opportunities for veterans and helps the UK economy by stimulating the technology sector.
The TechVets founders are: Peter Connolly (a retired Army Major, entrepreneur and founder of a cyber and physical security consultancy); Mark Milton (a tech design and innovation specialist with a background in cyber security); and Euan Crawford (a corporate financier, who spent time with the Army Reserve in Iraq before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant). Interest declared: I am also joining as a co-founder and adviser.
Connolly explains: “Around 15,000 people per year leave military service in the UK, and while they are highly trained, hard-working, bright minds, they typically do not find their way into the tech industry due to predominantly a lack of connections. We aim to address this missed opportunity by the TechVets programme bringing in veterans to help build our digital future.”
As well as providing free cyber-security training, TechVets is working with industry partners to secure employment for their cohort. TechVets will take no recruitment fees for this service. TechVets will work closely with the UK government, the MOD’s the Career Transition Partnership, military charities, and industry champions, in order to build the UK’s tech and cyber sectors with the unrealised human potential of the UK veteran community.
Milton says: “The UK government is committed to making the UK a secure and resilient digital nation, this programme supports that goal by recognising the unrealised human potential of our veteran community to address our cyber skills shortage.”
Crawford adds: “We are looking forward to working closely with the UK government and defence, the Career Transition Partnership, military charities, and industry champions, in order to harness the unrealised human potential within veterans. We are totally committed to supporting the recruitment and education of veterans and service leavers, and to helping veterans to leverage their transferable skills and succeed in tech.”
The TechVets launch event will be at Level 39, Canary Wharf, on Thursday 8 March, 2-6pm, and will feature veterans who have succeeded in tech and cyber as well as speakers from NCSC, Amazon, Google, Google Deepmind, IBM, Oracle, Institute for Cyber-Security Innovation, Cylon, Hut Zero.
Veterans and service leavers can register TechVets.co to apply to join the first cohort for cyber training or give feedback on what support would be most valued. Companies hiring in tech or cyber or who would like to signpost veterans to them please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Charities who are working with individuals who they feel may benefit, head to TechVets.co to register OR email email@example.com