Why should UK service leavers and veterans consider retraining for tech jobs?

Why should UK service leavers and veterans consider retraining for tech jobs?

James Murphy

Technology continues to advance rapidly affecting all aspects of our lives from personal through professional. Technology is changing the skills that are required in the workplace and we can only assume that these changes will continue and that at this point we may not be able to predict what these changes will look like. With ongoing technological, robotic, AI and automation advancements we may soon see many manual jobs that require physical skills and basic cognitive skills replaced. So far technology has contributed to the loss of around 800,000 British jobs but has helped to create 3.5 million new ones with specific - though not necessarily difficult to gain or particularly complicated, technological skill requirements.

Therefore, it is crucial that everyone entering the workforce is trained in the skills of the future, including social and emotional skills and high cognitive skills, but especially tech. UK service leavers and veterans should consider retraining for tech jobs. Paired with the invaluable skills and experiences gained during years of service, veterans trained in tech will be highly competitive in the current and future job market.

Now is the time to retrain – at present the UK has a large cyber securities skills gap, skills shortages and job vacancies. The tech industry is growing in both importance and number. This is forcing a changing demand for skills, knowledge and abilities that the UK government and workforce has not been able to keep up with. Service leavers and veterans should consider developing their Technical skills as they have already garnered significant experience in problem-solving skills; creativity skills; social skills and emotional intelligence.


According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in 2022 51% of all private sector businesses (around 697,000 businesses) identify a basic technical security skills gap i.e. a lack of confidence in performing a range of basic cyber security skills, tasks or functions. 33% of businesses (around 451,000 businesses) have a more advanced technical skills gap in areas such as penetration testing, forensic analysis, security architecture or engineering, threat intelligence, interpreting malicious code and user monitoring. 49% of cyber security firms have faced problems with technical cyber security skills gaps in the past 12 months.  

Which skills will help service leavers and veterans thrive in the future of work?

Predicting the skills that will be required in the future is a very difficult task. Looking only a decade ahead it is impossible to predict accurately the make-up of the UK and global economy. Deloitte reported in their publication Talent for Survival: Essential skills for humans working in the machine age, that if we can find sufficient numbers of highly skilled, capable and knowledgeable workers, then many occupations in the future will be performed by a composite of people and machines. People will be responsible for vital human aspects of the role, while machines will carry out repetitive, manual, logical and quantitative aspects. This vision presupposes that we can educate, train, recruit and retain highly adaptable workers and reskill existing generations within the workforce so they will be suited to the new world of work.

A study on 18,000 people in 15 counties by the McKinsey Global Institute has found there are 56 skills that governments should prioritise.

Three main criteria were used as a base to decide upon several foundational skills that will benefit all citizens, to future-proof their ability to work.

1.  Add value beyond what can be done by automated systems & intelligent machines

2.  Operate in a digital environment

3.  Continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations

Through this research 56 distinct elements of talent were identified (referred to as DELTAs rather than skills as they are a mixture of skills and attitudes). These DELTAs are spread across 13 skill groups and four categories (Figure 1):


Figure 1 From McKinsey report

With only 10% of the working population of the UK in blue-collared jobs and 7.6% working in the tech industry, there is a great opportunity for service leavers and veterans to retrain in tech and become professionals in an industry of growing importance within the UK economy.

What DELTAs should service leavers and veterans highlight in their CV or focus on developing?

The following tables show the results of the McKinsey Global Institute survey highlighting the specific mix of skills and attitudes within the DELTA range. The outcome of 15 countries provides a glimpse of the employability, level of income and job satisfaction people could experience or expect by having these skills and attitudes.


Qualifications and Training

An important finding from the McKinsey & Company research is that proficiency in certain DELTAs is not necessarily linked to education (see figure 2). Some of skills that have the lowest correlation to education are those that are embedded within the UK defence force including courage and risk-taking, resolving conflicts, self-confidence, ownership, and coping with uncertainty. Service leavers and veterans bring these transferable skills with them as they enter the civilian workforce. Paired with new tech skills, service leavers and veterans are highly competitive within the workforce.


According to Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport there is a narrow set of tech and cyber qualifications and certifications that are most in-demand.  Often companies provide training for staff in cyber roles. Although 73% of cyber firms provide training compared to just 21% in businesses outside the cyber sector. 63% of cyber firms report employing staff who have or are working towards cyber-security related qualifications (i.e., in higher education, apprenticeships or other certified training). This presents a promising opportunity for employment during retraining to service leavers and veterans who have existing skills and experience that benefit cyber companies.

The most requested certification by cyber employers is Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), which is in 39 per cent of online job postings in 2021 that ask for a specific certification. Cisco Certified Network Professional and Cisco Certified Network Associate certifications are also in high demand, with 21 per cent of job postings requesting each of these. These training requests have been consistent for the past four years.

Technological advancement will only continue to grow. With a huge skills gap in the industry, now is the time to retrain and cement your position in the growing cyber and tech industries. It is impossible to predict how technology will change the world of work over the coming decades. The only thing that can be said for certain is that the world of work is and will continue to change. Retraining in tech provides the best avenue for service leavers and veterans to remain competitive in the world of work for the decades to come.