Evolve Security Academy (Courtesy of Paul Petefish)
Evolve Security Academy (Credit: Greg Rothstein)

Paul Petefish has worked in various roles in the cybersecurity industry for over 15 years, so he’s seen the scramble for talent from every side.

“There’s over 200,000 unfilled jobs in this space to date and that’s only going to grow, so what’s happening is people in companies are poaching talent from each other versus trying to create it,” said Petefish.

With that in mind, last month he left his job as an IT security consultant to work full time on a new venture aiming to grow that talent and get it into the field fast. It’s called Evolve Security Academy, an 1871-based cybersecurity training academy that’s set to launch its first cohort next week. Their aim is to bring the code bootcamp model to another IT industry in desperate need of talent, at a time when frequent high profile hacks highlight our desperate need for cybersecurity. 

“The rate at which things change in just IT alone is staggering, but then the rate that things change in IT security is even faster”

“The rate at which things change in just IT alone is staggering, but then the rate that things change in IT security is even faster,” he said. “It’s been such a quick, and fast moving, and emerging trend that our traditional education model hasn’t been able to keep up.”

Evolve will act as a primer on the basics of cybersecurity, with an emphasis on hands-on practice and experience. In addition to an introduction on IT security theory and fundamentals, students will work on labs that simulate real scenarios. Once students have a hang of the skills, Evolve is partnering with nonprofits to provide free security services, both as a way to get students working on real-world projects and providing a service to organizations that might not have the resources to have their own security teams.

The academy will run similar to a code bootcamp, with part-time and full-time programs. The part-time program runs 17 weeks with night and Saturday classes, while the full-time program runs 12 weeks. Evolve is launching with the part-time program with 8 to 10 students, and will additionally roll out the full time program this July. Tuition is $10,000, and they’re offering nine scholarships as well as lending services through Pave. Evolve is also exploring a partnership with Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which would partially pay students’ tuition.

Petefish said they’re working with industry partners, including companies looking to expand their internal security teams, and security service companies to connect students with jobs at the end of the program.

He emphasized that they’re looking for students with the right attitude, rather than any demonstrated tech aptitude for the program.

“We’re looking for people with the right attitude–they’re smart, they’re driven,” he said. For initial cohorts they’re looking for people with some technical background, but in the future they’re building out additional resources that could help get students up to speed who are new to IT.

The need to bring new talent into the industry is clear: currently there are 209,000 open cybersecurity positions in the US, and demand is expected to grow by 53 percent by 2018. And anyone who shops at Target or Nordstrom, knows the damage inadequate security can wreak. That need will only grow as interconnected Internet of Things technology, such as smart homes and driverless cars start to pop up in our lives.

“[IT security is] out there helping lots of companies defend other peoples’ data, their healthcare records, their credit card information, their money and their bank account, intellectual property,” he said. “It’s a job that you can feel good about.”