Veteran reskilling startup helping big firms quit 'fire and rehire' cycles

WithYouWithMe working with organisations to tap talent in existing workforce for hard to fill tech and cyber roles

A firm which helps military veterans find technology and cyber security roles is now working with large companies to help them reskill existing workforces and stop cycles of ‘fire and rehire’.

WithYouWithMe launched in 2016 in response to high unemployment rates among Australian veterans. The startup continues to provide a platform to help returning soldiers discover their skills, and puts them through technology and cyber security focused training courses, before matching them with partner organisations in need of specialist staff.

At the beginning of the year the Sydney startup expanded its focus to help large firms reskill employees and prepare them for hard to fill internal roles.

“We identified that companies struggle to understand and see the potential within their existing workforce, and how to upskill those people quickly to prepare for future changes. They're tending to opt for a fire and rehire methodology which we've seen recently with the banks and the telcos,” said WithYouWithMe ANZ CEO Tom Larter, a former Australian Army captain.

The startup in March launched a software-as-a-service platform called WYWM Potential. Potential allows companies to test employees to identify what internal vacancies they are best suited for. WithYouWithMe also provides training to help the employees get job ready, with courses in cyber security, data analytics and robotic process automation.

“Rather than firing large groups of people and rehiring these technical skills, we should be able to look at how these jobs are changing and constantly upskill people over time. This will avoid skill gaps like we've seen in cyber,” Larter told Computerworld.

“It's not about what you've done in the past, not a lot of these emerging tech roles are actually that technical.”

During beta testing of the platform, an unnamed client that was seeking to fill a number of cyber security roles was able to find four current employees that were “a really good match based on aptitude and cultural fit” Larter said.

“Those individuals would never have applied for a job in cyber. They didn't realise they could learn that skill in 12 weeks and be confident. And the company would never have looked at that talent pool like that,” he explains.

The platform can also be used to better utilise the 49 per cent of employees (according to a March CBA report) who think their organisations fail to makes full use of their skills.

A number of large Australian companies are in the midst of changing the skills make-up of their workforces. Last year NAB revealed 2000 of its employees would have the opportunity to participate in a cloud skills training program. The announcement came after group CEO Andrew Thorburn said the bank would slash 6000 positions but also create the equivalent of 2000 new full-time positions.

In October, Optus launched its Automation Academy, a capability development program to upskill employees for future technical and non-technical automation roles.

According to WithYouWithMe it costs 130 per cent more to hire new employees compared with reskilling existing workers.

“There's a lot of pain in the market around trying to find good talent, and there's a lot of good talent sitting inside these companies and wanting to get into these new roles,” Larter said.

WithYouWithMe is working with 165 firms in Australia, New Zealand and the US. It is also partnering with Australian universities to provide similar services to students and graduates.

Realign purpose

Larter says that WithYouWithMe will continue to assist veterans prepare for and secure technology and cyber security related roles. People from the military are particularly well-suited to them, he adds.

“There are a number of specific trades in the military that are perfect for cyber. Things like telecommunications, electronic warfare, intelligence, and even some of the combat roles. [The veterans] understand how to defend things. They're very curious. Part of cyber is understanding how would I break into this? How would I try and win? They have a very strong will to win,” Larter said.

Last year the startup ran a government backed program which saw 36 veterans trained in information security skills to fill roles at the Department of Human Services (DHS). Other veterans have been placed in roles at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac, NAB, PWC, Accenture, AWS, Honeywell, Randstad, Splunk, BAE Systems, and Glad Group, to name a few.

“We just had to give them the technical skills to know how to use some of the different tools, how to talk the language, how to do some basic coding. It's just a new operating environment for the veterans. They can continue to contribute to Australia’s security after they've left the military. We can realign their purpose,” Larter said.

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Tags HRplatformSydneymilitaryskillsdefencedata analyticsstart-uparmycyberNavycrisisRobotic Process AutomationRPAAustralian ArmyairforceWithYouWithMe

More about ANZAustraliaAWSCommonwealth BankCommonwealth Bank of AustraliaDepartment of Human ServicesHoneywellNABOptusRandstadSplunkWestpac

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