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Cybersecurity Strength through Apprenticeships

In May 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure.” On the topic of Workforce Development, the EO included a charge to the Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security to “Assess the scope and sufficiency of efforts to educate and train the American cybersecurity workforce of the future, including cybersecurity-related education curricula, training, and apprenticeship programs, from primary through higher education.” The Report to the President specified several actions as part of the recommendation that the “Government, the private sector, and academia should build on and strengthen hands-on, experiential, and work-based learning approaches—including apprenticeships, research experiences, co-op programs and internships—as part of their strategies for meeting cybersecurity workforce needs.”  In the June 2017 EO Expanding Apprenticeships in America, President Trump cited cybersecurity as a priority sector for expanding and diversifying apprenticeships.

The cybersecurity field is suffering from a severe shortage of talent, with more than 301,000 open jobs according to CyberSeek – an interactive cybersecurity jobs heat map funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), led by NIST, is strategically focused to organize a national effort to address this shortage for both the public and private sectors. One strategic goal of NICE is to Accelerate Learning and Skills Development. Apprenticeships in cybersecurity are a welcome approach to help more people gain the knowledge and hands-on skills needed to be successful in cybersecurity roles, even without a formal college or university education.

In March, NICE launched a new public working group dedicated to building a public-private dialogue on the topic of cybersecurity apprenticeships.  Its leaders, Girish Seshagiri and Jennifer Carlson, know what it takes to catalyze and coordinate efforts to create cybersecurity apprenticeships.  Girish is the co-founder of an secure software development apprenticeship initiative called CICESS which is currently launched in Peoria, IL and San Antonio, TX. Jennifer’s organization, Apprenti, is a 501(c)3 that helps industry and educators build apprenticeship programs in a variety of sectors and locations, including cybersecurity.

The apprenticeship public working group already includes more than 100 participants.  It welcomes more business, educational, governmental, and other leads who want to contribute or learn more about topics such as:

  • How apprenticeships can apply to work roles identified in the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework;
  • The role of Federal, state, and local government in assisting and approving an apprenticeship;
  • The steps supporting employers seeking to build a cybersecurity apprenticeship program;
  • Curriculum resources and education partners, and;
  • The role of an intermediary. 

To join this group, send an email to nicewg.app@nist.gov with the subject line: “Apprenticeship Subscribe”, and with your full name and email address in the body of the message. This group meets the fourth Friday of every month at 11:00 a.m., Eastern Time.

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