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Can Apprenticeship Program Close Cybersecurity Talent Gap?

There’s no way the cybersecurity skills shortage — by one measure expected to result in 3.5 million unfilled jobs by 2021 — is going to improve without fresh thinking. Newly proposed bipartisan legislation to support apprenticeships in cybersecurity may be a step in the right direction to help boost the number of qualified workers for cyber jobs.

The Cyber Ready Workforce Act, introduced late last week by Representative Jacky Rosen (D-NV), would establish a grant program within the Department of Labor to help create, set up and grow registered apprenticeships for cybersecurity trainees, The Hill reported. The idea is to equip participants with enough cybersecurity certifications to land an apprenticeship that might eventually turn into a private sector or government agency cybersecurity job.

Of the 302,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. as of March, 2018, nearly 14,000 are in the public sector, according to a recent study conducted by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity career and workforce resource CyberSeek.

Rosen said the bill, which is co-sponsored by Congressional lawmakers Seth Moulton (D-MA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY.) and Dan Donovan (R-NY), is modeled after Nevada’s first in-state cybersecurity apprenticeship program, approved by the State Apprenticeship Council last May.

“The demand for talent in cybersecurity is sky-high, and we’re putting ourselves at risk if we don’t address this shortage in our workforce,” Rosen said. “I’m committed to ensuring that businesses and government have the skilled people and critical tools they need to enhance our nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure, help industry thrive, and strengthen our national security.”

Information technology industry advocate CompTIA praised the proposed legislation. “Through innovative public-private partnerships, under the direction of the U.S. Department of Labor, the information technology industry will have greater access to registered apprenticeship programs and be better able to train the cybersecurity professionals our nation needs,” said Elizabeth Hyman CompTIA executive VP for public advocacy.

One thing about the cybersecurity skills gap is there’s no shortage of surveys documenting the problem. For example, in an Enterprise Strategy Group study earlier this year of 620 IT and cybersecurity pros, 51 percent said that their organization had a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills, up from 45 percent in 2017.

Jobs retraining may be another creative way to boost the pool of qualified cybersecurity workers, according to a new survey by Champlain College, a Burlington, VT-based institution. Of 1,000 adults surveyed in The State of the Cybersecurity Workforce and Higher Education report, some 40 percent said they would probably or definitely consider returning to college to earn a certificate or degree to prepare for a cybersecurity job. Their interest level rose to 72 percent if current employers were willing to pay for their education to prepare for a cybersecurity job. Those most willing to consider pursuing an employer-funded cyber education were between the ages of 35 and 44, according to the study.

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