On 30 May, the White House released a report calling for immediate and sustained improvements in the country’s cybersecurity workforce. Prepared by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security, the report was a response to the President’s Executive Order 13800, which called for strengthening the cybersecurity of federal networks and critical infrastructures.
“Ensuring the security of our interconnected global networks is one of the defining challenges of our era,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in remarks accompanying release of the report. “A skilled cybersecurity workforce is necessary for our nation so that we can fully reap the benefits of the 21st-century digital economy.”
The report cites government estimates of 286,000 active openings for cybersecurity jobs, as of November 2017, and projects a global shortage of 1.8 million cybersecurity professionals by 2022. The shortage of qualified cyberworkers is compounded by an apparent shortage of knowledgeable and skilled cybersecurity teachers at the primary and secondary levels.
The report calls for government, industry and academia to join together in issuing a national Call for Action with consensus on actionable steps that could be taken to prepare, grow and sustain the national cybersecurity workforce. The plan would help mobilize private sector resources to address cybersecurity workforce needs.
To meet the demand and expand the pool of eligible cybersecurity candidates, the report urges retraining those employed in non-cybersecurity fields, and increasing the participation of women, minorities and veterans, in addition to the traditional approach of targeting qualified students in primary through secondary school.
To attract more students and qualified educators to the field, the private sector was called on to build and strengthen hands-on experiential learning opportunities, including apprenticeships, co-op programs and internships, and research experiences. The shortage of qualified teachers could be offset in part by use of increased use of virtual training and assessment environments.
The report calls for greater public-private collaboration in such areas as modeling lifelong career paths for cybersecurity-related positions that can be used in the private and public sectors, a standardized cybersecurity lexicon and curriculum guidelines, and establishment of cybersecurity education and workforce alliances in each state.
Underlying the initiative, the report acknowledged the need for stable and sustained federal investments, including financial assistance and incentives to reduce student debt or subsidize cybersecurity education and training costs.
The full report, Supporting the Growth and Sustainment of the Nation’s Cybersecurity Workforce: Building the Foundation for a More Secure American Future, is available online.