1(630)802-8605 Ravi.das@bn-inc.net

As I have written about before, there exists a huge shortage in the workforce in the Cybersecurity industry.  At present, there are some 300,000 jobs that still yet need to fill.  These range anywhere from Pen Testing to Threat Hunting to even being a Cybersecurity Analyst or Consultant. 

Of course, many of these positions require that a candidate have a college degree at minimum, and preferably a couple of the hundreds of certifications that are out there.

To fill this gap, many colleges and institutions are now offering specialized degree programs just in Cybersecurity, as well as many kinds of summer camps in order to get high school students interested.  In fact, many universities are now even getting grants in order further increase the attractiveness of their programs.

One such example of this is the University of Arkansas, where they just received a five-year, $4.63 million funding from the National Science Foundation.  The aim of this new program that will be launched is to focus upon three primary areas:

*Cybersecurity in general;

*Transportation security (this will be about learning how to secure the airports, railroads, shipping lines, major points of entry, etc.);

*The protection of Critical Infrastructure (this will include such as areas nuclear facilities, gas and oil lines, the national power grid, water supply lines, etc.).

The new program that will be launched will called be specifically the “Cyber-Centric Multidisciplinary Security Workforce Development”.  Faculty from the departments of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Industrial Engineering will be called in order to draw their expertise to create this new program. 

The aim of this program is to provide both job training and research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students.  A bonus to this program is that the participants in this program will be offered not only summer internships into this program, but there is also a good chance that they could be hired on at the Federal Government level for a position in Cybersecurity. 

The program will ultimately focus upon the poor and underprivileged student population that is located around the northwest Arkansas area.  After graduating from this program, the student will be well versed in just all about all areas of Cybersecurity such as:

*Network and Computer Security;

*Data Storage Protection;

*Cryptography;

*Malware Attacks;

*Source Code vulnerabilities;

*The threats that are posed to the Critical Infrastructure.

The Cyber-Centric Multidisciplinary Security Workforce Development will also include researchers from the following departments at the University of Arkansas:

*The Center for Information Security and Reliability;

*The Mack-Blackwell Transportation Center;

*The Cybersecurity Center for Secure Evolvable Energy Delivery Systems.

In a similar move this, the Department of Homeland Security has also announced that it will provide funding of up to $35 Million for a new “Center of Excellence” that will focus primarily upon Cyberterrorism.  Once this has been launched, universities and other academic institutions will be asked (or invited) to submit proposals as to how they could work together in order to fill the Cybersecurity work shortage.

My Thoughts on This

Honestly, I think these moves are great.  It only underscores just how the academic and Federal Government sectors here in the United States take seriously this worker shortage.  But while all the efforts are given to lure, and train students into a getting a Cybersecurity, the next main effort will be in how to keep them interested and motivated to pursue a career in the long term. 

Of course, anybody at any time could choose to get a different job or even an entirely brand-new career path they want to, but keep in mind that these academic institutions, such as the University of Arkansas have a vested interest in these students. 

They will be spending a lot of money to train and educate these students to their college degrees without any virtually cost to them.  Therefore, it is important to keep them inspired for the long haul.

Remember, these kids are at a critical age in their lives where they can be impressionable by just about anything.  Therefore, they need all possible resources at their disposal in order to keep them motivated in Cybersecurity. 

One such avenue could be the SMB.  For example, a small business owner could offer an internship to one of these college students that are pursuing a college degree in Cybersecurity.  They could train them in Cybersecurity, from the business perspective.

Heck, they could even make them a part of their own IT Security staff during the summer months in order to let them learn as much as possible what it takes to protect the lines of defense of a business in Corporate America. 

While the textbook training is important, getting this real-world exposure is just equally as, if not more, important as well. For instance, as the student learns about the concepts of Penetration Testing, they can put it into practice at the SMB where they their internship.

But apart from providing these real world opportunities, the owner of the SMB, or another member of the IT Security staff should also provide some sort of mentoring to these students as well, not only as they continue their college careers, but even as they progress in their Cybersecurity careers as well. 

Just showing the fact that somebody cares and that these students can lean onto someone for advice and guidance can carry its weight in gold for a long time to come.

But apart from that, even mentoring a student can take a different approach as well, especially when it comes to the world of certification.  At the present time, there virtually hundreds of them out there in Cybersecurity, and the list just keeps on growing.  In this regard, providing mentorship can also help a student not only decide what kind of career they want to embark onto, but even deciding what kind of cert to take.

Remember that anybody, given that they have the financial resources can take just about any kind of cert.  But rather than taking this shot in the dark approach, it is important for the student to strategically think about what type of cert that they should get.  Again, this is where mentorship, especially from the corporate sector, can be of big help.

Who knows, if the student performs well on their internship, perhaps you, the SMB owner, could even hire them on as a full-time employee.  This only serves as an added bonus to you, because not only will you know this individual well from both a personal and professional standpoint, but it will also save you time on perhaps interviewing many candidates for a position you are trying to fill. 

In other words, you already have a candidate you can call upon, and that has been trained into your ways of thinking as to how the lines of defenses can be enhanced at your organization.

Finally, more information about the program at the University of Arkansas can be found here:

https://news.uark.edu/articles/48515/-4-6-million-award-creates-program-to-train-cybersecurity-professionals