The White House is trying a new tack to close the cyber workforce gap, again seemingly looking for a quick fix where a longer term appeal might better serve answering the problem of 700,000 unfilled jobs in the sector.
Biden administration officials are launching a 120-day Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Sprint, a collaboration involving the departments of Labor, Commerce, along with other federal agencies and the White House Office of National Cyber Director, to help fill the widening gap of unfilled cybersecurity positions.
The Good Jobs Challenge, a broader $500 million Commerce Department program, will fund the effort. The effort will place particular focus on recruiting women and minorities to train and work in the cybersecurity field, said Labor Secretary Martin Walsh and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at the National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit at the White House.
The summit drew leadership from the cybersecurity, software and consumer goods industries. The attendees included representatives from Amazon, Google, Mandiant, Fortinet, Walmart and Bank of America, reports said.
750,000 Unfilled Cybersecurity Jobs
The estimated 500,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions in the United States, Raimondo said, had spiked to nearly three quarters of a million in just the last few months for a 40 percent increase. To further underscore the dilemma, National Cyber Director Chris Inglis told CNN that the U.S. can only fill about two-thirds of cybersecurity job openings annually, meaning the gap between filled and unfilled is likely to grow larger each year.
"It's going to take a little bit longer to arrest its upward climb before we bend it and we trend it down," he said. "But we're very aggressive about this, and I think we can make a substantial difference in months or a few years' time as opposed to having this be with us for the next generation."
According to the CNN report, the federal government will release a national cyber workforce framework that will detail a training and development path for K-12 students and potential new entrants into the field.
U.S. Playing Catch-up on Cyberdefense
This latest sprint is one of a number of initiatives launched at the federal level or separately by individual agencies. For example, in late November, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security opened a new personnel system to augment its ability to recruit, develop and retain entry and expert-level cybersecurity professionals. And, in May of last year, in a 60-day “workforce sprint,” DHS said it was able to fill some 12 percent of 2,000 job vacancies.
Two months earlier, the White House initiated a two-year fellowship program to recruit early-career technologists with skills in software engineering, data science, cybersecurity and other critical fields to begin their profession in federal service. The program, dubbed the U.S. Digital Corps, is a collaboration of the General Services Administration (GSA), the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Personnel Management, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
DHS is also operating an Honors Program beginning with an initiative to recruit recent graduates with degrees in cybersecurity-related fields for a one-year professional development program at the agency.