Fortinet Launches New Training Initiatives To Combat Cybersecurity Skills Shortage, Aid Returning Vets

Ask almost any security solution provider to describe the toughest challenge today in helping meet customers' needs, and you're likely to hear that it's finding the talent to fill open security positions. Fortinet is looking to change that dynamic, launching a new training initiative Tuesday to bring more students and military veterans into the field.

The Fortinet Network Security Academy will have sites around the country at local universities and organizations to provide sponsored content and certifications. The free training, which builds on the company's current training, is based on courses previously offered only to partners and customers, and is designed to bring professors up to speed with the latest in security trends as well as Fortinet technology.

Fortinet, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., already has seven universities globally signed up and plans to have 20 organizations by the end of the quarter, according Joe Sykora, vice president of Americas channels and enhanced technologies. Partners are involved in many of the training engagements, Sykora said. As Fortinet expands the sites through which it is offering training, Sykora said, he hopes to engage with local partners to both help with training and develop intern or job relationships with those going through the programs.

[Related: Code Red: It's Time To Sound The Alarm On The Security Talent Shortage]

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Fortinet also said it is seeing increased momentum behind its Fortinet Veterans Program, which aims to train military veterans and help them find employment at the vendor or its partners. The program has helped dozens of veterans land jobs in cybersecurity, the company said. Sykora said Fortinet plans to expand the program into Canada and the U.K. in the coming months.

The cybersecurity skills shortage is a real problem for both vendors and their partners. According to market research firm Frost & Sullivan's 2015 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study, 62 percent of the study's nearly 14,000 respondents said they didn't have enough security talent, up from 56 percent in 2013. That gap will continue to grow, the study predicted, reaching 1.5 million unfilled positions in the next five years.

"The demand has increased a lot faster than we can put out these people. … We're trying to do our share on the corporate side to provide our education, our training to the public to help them get more aware and help fill this gap. ... That's what this is about," Sykora said.

Peter Kujawa, division president of Locknet Managed IT Services, based in Onalaska, Wis., said his business -- like many managed security service providers -- struggles to find adequate talent to fill its open security positions. As a result, he said, his business has been forced to train people from within, something he said is time-consuming and expensive.

"It's very, very difficult to recruit, retain and to compensate in a way that you can run your business profitably," Kujawa said.

While he isn't involved with either program directly, Kujawa said, he supports Fortinet's push to train more security professionals, particularly those coming from universities and out of military service.

"I think anything that Fortinet can do to help prepare future security engineers with that skill set is something that will benefit all of us," Kujawa said. "We always appreciate them supporting this and helping us with that."

More important than the possibility of augmented staff is the mission to help unemployed veterans find solid, well-paying jobs, said Pat Grillo, chairman of the board at Branchburg, N.J.-based Atrion Communications Resources.

"You have two people trying to pull in the same direction. You can make it twice as good if you pull the two together," Grillo said. "Anything we can do to get vets into training to be successful when they get out -- that’s what I want to do, and [Fortinet is] trying to do. That’s a perfect marriage. If we sell more Fortinet because of it, that's not the goal. It's to take care of people who have given so much for their country."