CDW•G’s Chris Heist explains the need for cybertraining at DAFITC.

Aug 30 2023

DAFITC 2023: Why Military Branches Must Build Cyber Talent from Within

CDW•G experts discuss the best way defense agencies can add training to empower and engage service members.

Just as in the private sector, the military is struggling with retaining members and placing the best candidates in the most needed IT positions. Extra training can develop people to be more flexible and more highly skilled in their jobs, experts say.

“If I’m a new airman, what is a good roadmap for me? Most of them don’t have that answer,” said Brandon Dusin, a CDW•G advanced technology account executive for the Air Force, Space Force and other defense agencies. “They know how to become chief, the game you need to play to get promoted.”

“But what about how to be talented, how to be flexible, how to learn a technology?” he asked. “You’ll find that if you get your airmen started on a learning track, they enjoy it and like their job better. They want to learn more.”

As defense agencies and branches shop for new technology, it’s a good idea for them to ask vendors for services that go with the solutions — a week of extra training, for example, or a quick demonstration on the spot to make sure airmen understand the tech, Dusin said.

“Skills profiles are rapidly changing,” he added.

He spoke at DAFITC 2023, the Department of the Air Force Information Technology and Cyberpower education and training event that runs through Wednesday in Montgomery, Ala. More than 4,000 service members, civilian workers and industry representatives are attending the conference.

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How to Develop Cyber Talent from Within, with Help

When it comes to filling cybersecurity positions, the “built, not bought” method can work well, said Chris Heist, business development manager for CDW Cybersecurity Services.

“Take your junior-level airmen and treat them well, get them the adequate training that they need,” he said. “Trying to build people from the inside, that keeps people happy. Show airmen you have a path forward for them, something that’s going to make them want to stay.”

But units don’t have to develop such programs from scratch, Heist added. On the government side, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies has created the NICE Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity, which helps clarify cybersecurity roles so employers can begin to build a team without gaps.

LEARN MORE: How federal agencies can boost security against threats.

“There are tools out there that will test folks against databases to find skills gaps,” he said. “You can take that feedback and develop your own custom training path.”

Agencies can also approach outside vendors for assistance. CDW•G, for example, acquired Focal Point in 2021 to increase its ability to provide federal customers and other with specialized IT training.

“You don’t have to do it alone,” said Heist, who worked for Focal Point. “There are folks in the industry that can help you. It’s just a matter of taking the time to sit down and have that conversation.”

To learn more about DAFITC 2023, visit our conference page. You can also follow us on X (formerly Twitter) at @FedTechMagazine to see behind-the-scenes moments.


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