(Photo by Lalita Clozel)
There’s a hole the cybersecurity sector needs to fix — and that’s a workforce gap.
A key step, according to panelists convened Wednesday by Per Scholas, a nonprofit that provides free IT certifications for adults seeking to re-enter the job market, will be to educate potential employees about the profession.
“This is a new field, and it’s a little ill-defined,” said Steven Silverman, the director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.
Yet, it’s clearly an untapped market, with 23,000 cyber security jobs posted last year in the D.C. area — the largest number in the nation by far, according to a Burning Glass Technologies analysis reported by the Washington Post.
The effort, several panelists argued, has to be led by a coalition between the private, public and education sector. “The money that is going to be spent on civil cybersecurity will dwarf what is going on in the defense side,” said Silverman.
But meanwhile, the cybersecurity profession still seems abstract and unattainable for scores of potential new recruits, warned Renee Forney, the executive director of the CyberSkills Management Support Initiative, a Department of Homeland Security effort created in March 2013.
“Everyone in this room can relate to the activity that a dentist performs,” said Forney. “Not so much for a cyber forensic analyst.”
Even technology professors seem to have been caught unawares by the rapidly involving industry. “You have professors teaching courses in cybersecurity but really don’t know what folks do in those jobs,” acknowledged Charles Britt, the STEM education coordinator at Northern Virginia Community College.
Now, Per Scholas is proposing to convene a task force — with the above panelists and others — to develop strategies against this workforce gap. As a first step, it will adapt its curricula. “Our trainings have to be nimble enough to work within the confines of what employer partners … need,” said Per Scholas’s Bridgette Gray. The nonprofit opened its fourth office in Silver Spring in March.
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