A historical method of learning to do a job has returned to Salmon, but with a 21st century twist.
Prescient Security is offering federally certified cybersecurity apprenticeships in the Lemhi County seat.
Prescient Co-director Steve Seideman said the company is utilizing the tried and true methods by which people learned most trades and skills for generations — until college became common for many people.
“We’ve readopted that approach because there are very few jobs in IT that you need a college degree for,” Seideman said.
When Seideman and Co-director Gemma Meyers decided to open an office in Salmon last November they “knew we wouldn’t find qualified employees, so we knew we would have to train them,” he said. That led to the development of the apprenticeship program. They reached out to the Idaho Department of Labor, he said. That resulted in the apprenticeship program now being sponsored and approved by the labor department. It also has Veterans Administration approval, which means qualified veterans can gain on-the-job experience and use their GI bill in the program.
Prescient Security is helping close the technology skills gap in Idaho, said Brandon Moffat, manager of the Rexburg office of the Idaho Department of Labor, who works closely with Meyers and Seideman.
Apprentices at Prescient receive college-level training on the job, Seideman said. At the same time, they are enrolled in online classes through American Public University. Veterans can enroll in American Military University. The two colleges are both part of the American Public University System. A target group of employees are ex-military personnel, Seideman said, in part because many of them have training in various security matters and have high security clearance levels.
“We wanted to give those people a place to learn a new skill or enhance their skill set and get into this business,” Seideman said of veterans.
It’s difficult to fill the three million cybersecurity jobs in the world, Seideman said. There’s constant pressure for cybersecurity companies to charger lower fees, which is exacerbated by the emergence into the market from employees in such countries as India, the Philippines and Vietnam where workers earn far less money than cybersecurity employees in the U.S.
“We argue that we can do the work better,” Seideman said. “But better isn’t always the only decision.” Like many businesses, employee salaries are the vast majority of Prescient’s expenses. That’s a key reason for locating the office in Salmon, he said.
“Working here and not New York City saves us money,” Seideman said. Office space, utilities, internet access and supplies in Salmon are all significantly cheaper than in New York City, he said. Likewise, salaries can be lower in Salmon while still paying employees more than the average Lemhi County resident earns in a year. New employees with Prescient earn about $30,000 a year. The average Lemhi County salary is $22,000 a year, he said. After completing a two-year apprenticeship and earning a journeyman certificate, an employee can earn up to $50,000 a year in Salmon.
Apprentices are supervised by Seideman and off-site managers who work with Prescient’s parent company — EnableIT, which has offices in New York City, San Francisco and Toronto. EnableIT is a consulting company and Prescient focuses on cybersecurity. EnableIT helps Fortune 500 companies transcend cyber and financial risk through a holistic risk strategy. Prescient Security has expanded its services since it was spun off the parent company, to now encompass cybersecurity operations, financial risk platforms and managed security services. Prescient employees mostly handle shorter-term projects, Seideman said, focusing on risk management “to avoid someone stealing information or data from a company.”
Seideman is happy and proud to be bringing high-tech jobs to rural Idaho where job opportunities can be limited. Qualifying high school students can enter the program and get a leg up on a technology career. He’s hopeful that Prescient can catch some of those students and “put them in a more focused program.” That helps keep local kids home working good jobs, he said.
There are currently four apprentice spots and two are now available. Seideman and Meyers want to add 10 more spots this year and then add between five and 10 per year in subsequent years.
Partnering with the state and federal labor departments and receiving some money from those entities is helping Prescient grow rapidly, he said. The Idaho Works program provides money for some apprentices by paying their salary as they are trained. The state has financial aid options for some apprentices to pay for college courses, too. Likewise, American Public University has some financial aid and scholarship packages available.
He envisions Prescient apprentices getting jobs at such places as INL or its contract companies or with government entities including the FBI in Pocatello.
He’s already looking to the future and possible growth.
“If we can be successful in Lemhi and Custer counties, maybe we can replicate this in other rural Idaho counties,” Seideman said. “There’s potential to grow.”
The governor, the Department of Commerce and Department of Labor all have the Salmon program “on their radar,” Seideman said. That could lead to expansion options through the rural investment program.
Currently, Prescient is in a 2,000-square foot building with plenty of room for the staffing and training they plan. If they outgrow that space, they’ll move to a bigger building, he said. Seideman is not worried about finding office space, but he is concerned about housing options for apprentices who come from outside Lemhi or Custer counties. The housing and rental markets are tight, he said, but the local workforce is limited, so it’s very likely people will come from other places.
People who are interested in an apprenticeship should call the Prescient office at 208-756-1900 or send an email to email@example.com.