Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Many cybersecurity firms want to hire military members who have current cybersecurity experience and clearance – but find that they lack necessary industry certifications to fill positions in the private sector. A new cyber and IT training company in San Antonio, which is known as "Military City USA," hopes to bridge that gap.
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Erich Freundner's journey from active duty to cybersecurity professional in San Antonio started when he was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. He discovered Dynamic Advancement, an information technology (IT) and cybersecurity training provider which, at the time, was located in Honolulu.
“I started working with Dynamic Advancement while I was still in Hawaii and took my exams after I moved to San Antonio,” Freundner said. “They were flexible in working with my schedule and motivated me to pursue higher level certifications I wasn’t sure I could obtain before working with them.”
Dynamic Advancement opened its new location in May at Port San Antonio and has since designated the office as its headquarters. Port SA is home to the 24th Air Force, a key component in the U.S. Cyber Command, and close to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland’s 25th Air Force, which also supports cyber operations.
In the U.S., 40,000 information security jobs and 200,000 other cybersecurity related roles go unfilled annually, according to online data tool CyberSeek.
The demand for local cybersecurity and IT training is high, said Lydia Elder, public and government relations coordinator for the Texas Workforce Commission.
“By 2024 the need for information security analysts will go up to 1,700 jobs just in the greater Alamo region,” Elder said. “We find that many veterans transitioning from military service already have many of the skills in these areas, they’re great candidates for cybersecurity careers.”
The company has trained more than 200 people like Freundner — active duty service members and veterans who need industry-required certifications in order to qualify for IT and cybersecurity jobs.
Freundner was able to complete a Microsoft Windows Server 2016 certification that qualified him as a computer systems administrator while serving full time as an Air Force cyber systems operator. He attended on-site classes and finished his certification with online classes after he moved to San Antonio. Freundner started his new job as the network administrator for KSH Solutions in August.
“Our specialty is training those for the front lines of cybersecurity, so it made sense to position the company in San Antonio at the Port,” Dynamic Advancement co-founder Kekai Namauu said.
Namauu joined forces with three other Air Force veterans to start the company in 2015.
Cyber training is provided by other locally-based organizations like Rackspace's Open Cloud Academy, which offers a $16,000 twelve-week introductory cybersecurity course. The company offering the largest number of IT, cyber, and other professional training and certification classes is New Horizons, located in the northwestern part of the city on Loop 410. The company offers certification training for careers in IT and cybersecurity in locations across the city.
Other training and certification providers have online presence, such as Global Knowledge and Infosec Institute, but do not have a physical presence in San Antonio. Each company has varying course offerings within the extremely broad category of certification training.
Dynamic Advancement focuses on training service members working in cyber operations at or near Port San Antonio who are interested in a cyber or IT career in the private sector.
While serving the Air Force, Namauu saw how limited the training options were for service members looking for civilian IT and cyber jobs. Deployments, training schedules, and the demands of military service made acquiring industry certifications challenging.
Dynamic Advancement offers both online classes and mobile, on-site training, often setting up on classrooms at secure government facilities for interested military members looking for a IT or cyber job in the private sector after active duty service.
“We use veterans as our SMEs [subject matter experts] to serve as instructors since many of them possess the active security clearances to gain on-site access and have current experience in cybersecurity operations,” co-founder Jordan Davis said.
The instructors' current experience allows the newly trained veterans to maintain their up-to-date cyber expertise as they transition to private sector IT or cyber jobs.
"I think this concept is an awesome idea," U.S. Air Force veteran Nigel Le Blanc said. "There is something about using veterans as SMEs to help other veterans with a new career because they have a shared understanding and industry experience."
Le Blanc founded the San Antonio-based Cyber Warrior Network in July 2015 after discovering the need to decipher military members’ cybersecurity experience and skills to match them with civilian employers looking for cyber experts. The network is the first cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) cyber recruitment and talent management platform that connects businesses with the best suited matches in the security clearance-holding cyber talent pool.
Jim Perschbach, executive vice president of business development at Port San Antonio said it is important to have a company like Dynamic Advancement at the Port to help create a flexible and skilled workforce because "one size does not fit all."
"The active duty community has current knowledge and experience, but Dynamic Advancement enables them to acquire the training and industry certifications to qualify for private sector cyber and IT jobs,” Perschbach said. "[Instructors] have the most current knowledge of the military's [cyber] operations and cybersecurity needs."
The company partners are working with community stakeholders such as Workforce Solutions Alamo and the Texas Workforce Commission to develop training packages targeting the types of jobs or career tracks in IT and cybersecurity with the highest number of vacancies in San Antonio.
The average annual salary for an information security analyst in 2016 was $92,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Dynamic Advancement offers training classes at no cost to help those interested in starting a cyber or IT career track.
Finding enough talent to fill cyber and IT jobs in the great San Antonio area is a pervasive issue, with many local businesses recruiting talent from outside the local area, according to Michele Cantu, the business engagement manager at Workforce Solutions Alamo.
"For about a year of specialized training, active duty service members in the cyber career fields can qualify for better paying jobs once they retire," Cantu said.