Three strategies to close the cybersecurity talent gap

Over the past few years, countless headlines have underscored the urgency to expand the cybersecurity workforce. Large-scale data breaches have hit companies as diverse as Anthem, Target, and JPMorgan Chase, demonstrating the need for cybersecurity professionals in any industry.

Involved Dane

According to a recent report from our partners at Burning Glass Technologies, employer demand for cybersecurity specialists is outpacing demand for other IT workers. From 2010–2014, the number of cybersecurity job postings across the country skyrocketed by 91%, while the number of IT job postings grew by 28%. Although cybersecurity jobs pay more than the average IT job, they also take 8% longer to fill. This is one clear sign that our industry partners are grappling with a workforce shortage. What can community colleges do to expand awareness of cybersecurity careers and create on-ramps into the field?

1. Collaborate with K-12 partners on cybersecurity career awareness

Low awareness of cybersecurity careers has contributed to the workforce shortage. Few students set out to become cybersecurity professionals at an early age, largely because they don't know the option is available. Community colleges are well-positioned to respond to this challenge because of their extensive partnerships with local school districts.

The National CyberWatch Center—a consortium of educational institutions, industry partners, and governmental agencies headquartered at Prince George's Community College—has created numerous K-12 outreach programs over the years. These programs range from hands-on activities for elementary and middle school students to career exploration workshops for high school guidance counselors.

2. Cross-train workers from other industries for cybersecurity jobs

Teleoperation and Cybersecurity Certificate at Cleveland Community College

Because community colleges are well-equipped to serve adult learners, they can also create on-ramps into cybersecurity for career changers. In Fall 2013, Cleveland Community College launched a 12-credit certificate in Teleoperation and Cybersecurity by combining existing coursework in IT and industrial services.

This program commonly enrolls former machine operators and shift leaders who have been displaced by automation. It prepares these career changers to return to work in the tech-driven environments that dominate the advanced manufacturing sector today.

3. Develop seamless transfer pathways for graduates to earn bachelor's degrees

Although many cybersecurity jobs require bachelor's degrees, community colleges play an essential role in preparing the workforce. In addition to training workers for entry-level roles, community colleges can develop articulation agreements to ease transfer into applied bachelor's programs.

Rose State College, which has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, provides its students with a seamless transfer option. Upon graduation, students can apply all credits from their associate's degree toward a Bachelor of Technology degree at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology.

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