The demand for talent in the cybersecurity sector is growing at an exceptional rate after 2020 broke records in terms of data lost in breaches and the number of cyberattacks on companies and government agencies. According to Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2019/2020 Cybersecurity Jobs Report, the world is bracing for 3.5 million unfilled positions in the industry this year. Of the candidates who are applying for these positions, fewer than one in four are qualified, according to the MIT Technology Review.
To impact this issue, state and city members should equip themselves with the knowledge of what resources and partnerships are available. Local Chambers can be a good start to begin collecting this knowledge. Chambers need support and resources for the businesses in their community looking to hire cybersecurity professionals, as well as those at risk of a cyberattack. Closing the talent gap requires detailed knowledge of the cybersecurity workforce, available training and upskilling resources and shortfalls, and an understanding of what local partnerships are available to break these barriers in a cost-efficient way.
Below are three actions that have ensured success for Colorado Springs, Colo., and that city leaders nationwide can also implement to fuel the cyber pipeline.
Partner with local institutions
Connecting with local colleges, universities and business leaders is a crucial aspect to building a cybersecurity talent network.
Start in the K-12 space and educate students early around the importance and benefits of a career in cybersecurity. Programs in school can be added to teach cybersecurity skills that enable high school students to graduate with a certification in cybersecurity (think Comp TIA Security +) or college credits which can roll into a two or four-year degree program. Fund afterschool cybersecurity clubs and STEM/robotics programs to encourage students to pursue interests in these areas. One example is the new e-sport, Drone Soccer, which is making its way into U.S. schools. Atlanta-based U.S. Drone Soccer partnered with Denver’s Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum to launch its first league. Colorado Springs’ Coronado High School is serving as a test pilot where STEM strategy is seen throughout the curriculum for sixth to 12th graders. The responsible control, maneuvering and collection of information by drones is a relatable concern to the cybersecurity community.
Universities offer cybersecurity specific degrees in multiple disciplines at the bachelor’s and graduate levels, along with cybersecurity internships and apprenticeships that allow local companies, including those in the defense industry, to provide hands-on cybersecurity experience while evaluating the capabilities of these students. This has been a successful path for establishing security clearances for interns so they can transition into a defense contractor position after graduation.
One example of an educational pipeline to employment in this growing industry is at Pikes Peak Community College(PPCC). Students can articulate their cybersecurity Associates of Applied Science (AAS) degree into an algebra vice calculus focused cybersecurity bachelor’s program, the Bachelor of Arts in Applied Science (BACS), at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS). UCCS offers cybersecurity scholarships and benefits to Colorado Springs’ large military population. Colorado is heavily invested in its cybersecurity talent pipeline as seen through the $6 million grantto fund a Colorado Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program. UCCS also received a $5.5 million grant to allow the buildout of 30,000 square feet of their Cybersecurity Building with labs, classrooms and collaboration spaces, scheduled to open next year.
Tap into talent transitioning out of the military and into the civilian workforce
Not all cybersecurity professionals need a four-year degree. As military members leave the service, they may have the skills needed for a job in IT or cybersecurity, including an already established security clearance, often required for high-level positions in the sector. For those veterans transitioning with a background in cybersecurity, the combination of a security clearance and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification will make them a highly sought-after commodity.
The Pikes Peak area is fortunate to have a large and highly skilled transitioning veteran population with five military installations in the region. Military members throughout the country can take advantage of the SkillBridge Military Program, which allows them to use their final six months of active duty to participate in training/education programs to prepare for a career outside of the military.
Veterans often transition into entrepreneurs, seek out scholarships or join a specific education program like SecureSetor ACI Learning, providing successful cybersecurity training in Colorado Springs. City leaders can work with local veteran groups to make sure cybersecurity training programs and job openings are visible and available to this community.
Promote workshops and business development centers
Promoting entrepreneurial workshops and programs designed to support cybersecurity professionals interested in starting their own business allows new talent to break down barriers. Additionally, small business professionals need assistance in understanding the cybersecurity-related impacts to their business and customers. There are unique programs such as those offered by the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, which is engaged in the national North Star Cybersecurity program run by America’s Small Business Development Centers. One program, Cover Your Assets, assists small business owners in learning the cybersecurity basics.
Our county’s workforce center—Pikes Peak Workforce Center—is also preparing a suite of cybersecurity training classes for individuals and businesses. These classes will be offered in partnership with Murray Security Services, a local training provider with a global reach, which shows full circle the importance of partnerships in every aspect of the talent pipeline.
Local universities and colleges can be encouraged to engage with middle and high schools to teach students how to code and show what careers are available in the world of cybersecurity. Afterschool workshops can also be promoted locally to bolster up and coming talent.
Partnering with different communities and bolstering the available programs helps build a strong talent pipeline in cybersecurity—an industry in high-demand. If you’re interested in learning more about how Colorado Springs is building a talent pipeline and how you can replicate the model in your community, contact us at the Chamber.
Vincent Persichetti is the operations director and cybersecurity programs director at the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC. Prior to joining the Chamber and EDC, he served 30 years on active duty in the United States Air Force, retiring as a Chief Master Sergeant. Most of his career was spent in Air Force Communications, focused on support of IT and cyber systems.