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Workforce Concerns in Cybersecurity

Cengage
Cengage

There is a shortage of skilled workers in the cybersecurity industry, per a panel of higher education and business industry leaders who recently met with the lawmakers at a House joint subcommittee hearing.   Recent national data breaches including the presidential election and  the Equifax hack have displayed to Congress the need for top-notch cyber security. Many of these entry-level jobs are unfulfilled in part because employers, including the federal government, mandate a Bachelor’s Degree to be considered for employment.

However, there is beginning to be a shift in the industry with cyber-security companies looking away from college degrees as an absolute requirement and focusing on an applicant’s hard skills and problem-solving abilities.

 

Members of the subcommittees proposed apprenticeships — a new concept in the cybersecurity and informational technology fields — as well as dual-enrollment programs, boot camps, and student internships to allow students to earn essential credentials and skills in a non-traditional learning system.

 

The subject of diversity, a widely-discussed subject in STEM, was also brought up at the hearing with the argument being that tapping a wider pool of talent will inevitably increase the number of skilled workers in the industry. Women comprise only about 11 percent of the global cybersecurity workforce, while African-Americans and Hispanics make up about 12 percent of employees, per industry reports. This is simple statistic to note, but a much more difficult problem to figure out how to change. Proposed ideas include “changing marketing materials”, hiring more women and minority instructors, and as  R. Scott Ralls, president of Northern Virginia Community College noted “allowing students to use federal Pell grants to cover certain short-term certificates and credentia...

 

Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) is also actively recruiting veterans. The college works proactively to connect with various organizations including reaching out with military employees before they leave the service they can amass credits for work experience and present them with accelerated programs where they earn credentials vital for cyber security roles. IBM plans to hire approximately 2000 veterans over the next two years.

 

You can watch the whole hearing below and leave your thoughts on the future of cyber security.

 

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Stephen_J_Padilla
Mentor

For many decades, the VA has been allowing veterans to us GI Bill and other educational benefits for accredited career colleges and for certifications.  I'm seeing this as a situation similar to the national shortage of plumbers and others in the skilled trades.  We have over-emphasized 4-year degrees for so long that we have people who cannot get jobs because their degrees are not appropriate to the workforce needs.

 

I am not going to argue for or against the idea of federally funded universal college education, but when we look at the European models for this sort of education, students must qualify through aptitude testing and are given taxpayer-funded education that is appropriate to their aptitudes.  If we start focusing more on education spending toward making people career ready--rather than simply giving grants and scholarships to be used as the child sees fit--then we will have a better prepared workforce, whether that spending is private or public, grants or loans.